by Nick Collins
November 2, 2011

When it comes to green building, contractors, owners and architects alike are cleaning up their act. According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), sustainable building practices can be credited with reducing operating costs, cutting absenteeism and promoting knowledge retention in our educational systems. With the push for sustainability by environmentally-conscious faculty and students, schools are literally practicing what they preach.

The University of Southern Maine in Portland is just one of many academic institutions throughout the country working to incorporate green design campus-wide. The $7.5 million Abromson Community Education Center is one of USM's major accomplishments. The 35,000-square foot building represents a major commitment on behalf of the University in maintaining its ongoing tradition of excellence in student education and community outreach for local residents. Consigli Construction Co., Inc. and architect Einhorn Yaffee Prescott worked collaboratively on the project, one of the first LEED Gold certified facilities in the State of Maine.

The center is named for Linda Abromson and her late husband, Joel. Abromson is a former Portland city councilor, mayor and faculty member in USM's Center for Continuing Education and former candidate for Congress. Abromson, who was elected four times to the Maine Senate, believed in improving the lives of ordinary people. The Abromson Community Education Center embodies this purpose and spirit of life-long learning. The center provides southern Maine citizens with the opportunity to access training programs for themselves or their businesses, to attend conferences and lectures with noted facilitators and speakers, to deepen their understanding of the world and its changing nature and to learn something new.

Contributions to the Community

USM's greatest assets-its faculty, students and staff-are at the heart of this building. The new center is designed to promote a sense of community both on campus and off. From the 520-seat lecture hall with advanced communication and presentation capabilities, to the state-of-the-art classrooms for community and professional education and conferencing, the facility offers a vibrant space for learning and gathering.

The location and environmentally responsible design of the center enhances the physical appeal of the campus. The new facility also reflects USM's outstanding reputation within the civic, social and cultural fabric of southern Maine.

Features include:

  • Natural light with glare control-90 percent of occupied spaces have outside view
  • Operable Windows
  • CO2 Sensing
  • Non-emitting materials for improved air quality
  • Construction indoor air quality program

Energy Efficiency:

  • Geothermal wells system reduces energy consumption
  • Associated reduction in atmospheric pollution
  • Advance controls and automated feedback
  • Advanced mechanical, electrical and plumbing commissioning to ensure optimal operations
  • Building envelope "tuned" by orientation

Water Efficiency:

  • Reduction in potable water using advanced plumbing fixtures and a rain water collection system
  • Reduction in waste water generation

Recycling:

  • Diverted 89.65 percent of waste from landfills

Materials:

  • 58.6 percent of the wood materials came from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forests
  • Low emitting carpet, sealants, adhesives, paints and composite wood products were used on the project

Site Design:

  • Best managed practices for storm water run-off

Education:

  • Lobby display educating visitors about building features and operations

Innovation in Construction Techniques or Materials

From its inception, achieving LEED Gold certification was a key project goal. The team devoted a great deal of time educating subcontractors on Green Building Standards.  Topics such as VOC limits, indoor air quality and the recycled content of materials were reviewed and discussed extensively.  Consigli also employed its pioneering waste reduction program onsite, diverting most concrete, wood, gypsum and steel from landfills.  In addition to being aesthetically impressive, the Abromson Community Education Center was sited to take advantage of sunlight and leaving the windows open to allow cooling. Storm water collected from the roof feeds part of the irrigation system, which is "less robust" than the university has built in the past. The University also insisted on non-emitting building materials to preserve air quality, and the wood used throughout is certified as having come from a source with good forestry management practices.

LEED Criteria Implemented:  

  • Erosion and sedimentation control plan
  • Waste recycling and reduction practices
  • Local and regional products manufactured within a radius of 500 miles
  • A minimum of 50 percent of the wood products certified by the FSC
  • Use of paints and coatings that meet or exceed VOC and chemical limits of Green Seal requirements
  • Meet/exceed carpet and rug institute Green Label Indoor Air Quality test program
  • No urea-formaldehyde in wood, agrifiber products
  • Teaching opportunities/energy usage display
  • LEED accredited professional on project

In addition, pre-operations meetings with all trades prior to their mobilization went a long way toward ensuring that materials were installed in accordance with the documents as well as the intent of the design team and greatly reduced the rate of "re-work."           

Consigli's demand that all subcontractors agree to the terms of our strict safety policy provided for a safe work environment and zero lost work days.

 

Construction Business Owner, December 2006