Projects / Educational      Cumberland, Maine

Friends School of Portland

"KTA's team distilled concepts generated in our lively and creative meetings resulting in drawings which met fundamental requirements and also expressed the more abstract elements of our school's mission. Phil's commitment to deadlines and responsive, inclusive and collaborative approach made the design process deceptively easy."


  • Certified Passive House
  • Maine AIA COTE Merit Award
  • Maine AIA Special Detail Recognition
  • AIA New England Institutional


  • Maine Home + Design
  • Bangor Daily News

Project Team


The Friends School of Portland, an independent K-8 school centered on long-held Quaker-based standards and beliefs, was founded on the principles of peace, inquiry, simplicity, and stewardship. When the Friends School made the move from its vibrant location on Mackworth Island to a wooded 25-acre lot in Cumberland Foreside, Maine, they knew it would be a challenge to maintain a strong connection to the outdoors, especially for a school where the outdoor experience is a key part of the everyday learning program.

A successful project required strong integration with the natural landscape through multiple, direct connections to outdoor spaces, and the use of natural and indigenous materials. The school also wanted to eliminate its use of fossil fuels. Could this school be an example for kids for both lifelong learning and how all buildings can be constructed to combat climate change?


The new school features airy classrooms filled with natural light, large windows overlooking walking trails, and play areas. Most of the interior wood was harvested directly from the site, some in lengths of up to 26 feet long. This white pine runs throughout the school, including the undulating ceiling of the Big Room, which lifts the eyes and the spirit toward the sun as it streams through the trees along the creek to the south. A 12-foot-wide door folds away, opening onto an outdoor amphitheater for performances, and a bridge connects the upper level to a playfield to the east.

The Friends School is the first Passive House-certified school in Maine (only the third built in the entire country). The new school has the goal of generating 100% of its own energy on-site through photovoltaic panels, reducing future operation costs dramatically and decreasing the school’s dependence on fundraising or drawing on its endowment. The construction methods used in this building are so calculated for efficiency that it was necessary to consider the body heat generated by the school’s 150 occupants in the final design!


  • Year Completed

  • Cost

  • Gross Floor Area

    15500 sq ft
  • Students

  • Partners

    Allied Engineering
    Bartlett Design
    Blais Civil Engineers
    Casco Bay Engineering
    ReVision Energy
    Soren Deniord Design Studio
    Warren Construction Group

Sustainability Achievements


  • Near public transportation
  • Sustainable landscape
  • Native plantings
  • Bike racks onsite
  • Reused materials from the site
  • Ecological Stormwater Management


  • Uses recycled or reclaimed materials
  • Uses locally-sourced materials
  • Designed for durability
  • Designed for low maintenance
  • Low global warming potential insulation


  • Optimized for daylighting
  • Fresh air ventilation system for indoor air quality
  • Visual connection to the outdoors
  • Low-VOC finishes


  • Low-flow fixtures
  • Landscaping requires little water


  • Fossil fuel-free building
  • Uses renewable energy systems
  • Uses passive design strategies
  • R-6 windows
  • R-40 walls
  • R-80-110 roof
  • R-40 slab
  • Net zero
  • Integrated energy monitoring system
  • Fresh air ventilation system with heat recovery
  • Super-insulated
  • Triple-glazed windows
  • Air-tight construction: 0.32 ACH50
  • Passive House Certification