Projects / Educational      Saco, Maine

The Ecology School at River Bend Farm

Context

The Ecology School wants to become one of the nation’s most sustainable residential environmental learning centers—and to build Maine’s greenest buildings. The School brings students from across New England into the natural environment through overnights, trips, and programs focused on environmental stewardship, sustainability, and the joy of getting outdoors. We knew that designing a new campus would be a labor of love, and we couldn’t wait to get to work.

The site is also almost entirely situated within a conservation easement, meaning that 90 percent of the land is under strict environmental protection rules that limit the kind of construction allowed. Their ambitious goals include adhering to the Living Community Challenge guidelines, the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment today. The Ecology School wants all their new buildings to meet Net Zero Energy standards, including making sure that all the water used onsite can be reclaimed.

Response

After years of renting a site, the Ecology School set out to find a new home where they could set down roots. The new site is located along the mighty Saco River just before it reaches the ocean. It includes a 105-acre organic farm with produce, livestock, and orchards, which will anchor lessons in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

We are leading a four-firm team that includes Scott Simons Architects, Briburn, and Richardson & Associates, and have partnered with landscape ecology analysts to understand the site’s potential and the School’s goals for improving every inch of its diverse riverfront property. Each year, elementary and middle school students will be able to visit this new home and explore its ponds, river, and woods while learning about how to care for the natural world.

Will any of the Ecology School’s students grow up to be green architects one day? We hope so.

Specs

  • Year Completed

  • Cost

    $$$$$$$
  • Partners

    Briburn
    Scott Simons Architects
    Richardson & Associates
    Integrated Eco Strategies
    Zachau Construction

Sustainability Achievements

Site

  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Sustainable landscape
  • Edible landscape
  • Native plantings
  • Renovation required minimal site disturbance
  • Bike racks onsite
  • Reused materials from the site
  • Ecological Stormwater Management
  • Resilient landscape design

Materials

  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Uses recycled or reclaimed materials
  • Uses locally-sourced materials
  • Designed for durability
  • Designed for low maintenance
  • Designed for minimal embodied energy
  • Low global warming potential insulation

Wellness

  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Optimized for daylighting
  • Fresh air ventilation system for indoor air quality
  • Visual connection to the outdoors
  • Low-VOC finishes
  • Formaldehyde-free building
  • Living Building Challenge Red List compliant
  • Health Product Declarations compliant
  • Contains no EPA chemicals of concern

Water

  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Rainwater capturing system
  • Low-flow fixtures
  • Designed to maintain natural drainage patterns
  • Landscaping requires little irrigation

Energy

  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Fossil fuel-free building
  • Uses renewable energy systems
  • Uses passive design strategies
  • Net zero
  • Has an integrated energy monitoring system
  • Fresh air ventilation system with heat recovery
  • Super-insulated
  • Triple-glazed windows
  • High Quality Air-tight construction
  • Drainwater heat recovery system
  • Electric vehicle charging integration