Marine Science Education and Research Center Incorporates State-of-the-Art Green Design

The University’s new Marine Science Education and Research Center completed in fall 2001 is one of the most environmentally green buildings anywhere.

In keeping with the University’s mission to protect the health of the environment, the Marine Science Education and Research Center incorporated state-of-the-art "green design" principles into its construction and operation.

The central principle of “green design” is that a building should have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. In application, this principle extends beyond construction materials to issues from site planning and preparation to energy usage. Even the sourcing of materials can be a factor when you consider fuel (and resulting pollutants) for transportation.

Experienced Green Architects

From its inception, the building committee made it a priority to design a building that could serve as a model for green design. Project architects Van Dam & Renner of Portland, Maine contracted with Mark Kelley of Building Science Engineering to lead this effort. Together they set up a system for prioritizing environmental and sustainability issues related to the building.

Kelley has consulted on hundreds of building projects and served on a number of professional association task forces related to environmentally responsible building design. He consulted with Van Dam & Renner on the Maine Audubon Society Headquarters in Falmouth, which showcases energy efficiency as well as attention to sustainability issues.

“The Marine Science Education and Research Center will set a new standard for buildings of this type and serve as an educational model for green design,” says Kelley. Educational displays, literature and possibly even demonstrations will be on public display in the future.

Design Elements

Fundamentally, the green design elements incorporated in the Center involve low energy consumption, low-impact land use, and the use of local, recycled, sustainable and low toxic materials.

Take energy as an example. Sixty percent of a building’s impact on the environment is related to its energy use. While most energy design approaches begin and end with equipment selection and distribution design, the designers of the Marine Science Education and Research Center took a more whole-building approach. First, they looked at the site (orientation to the sun, shade, weather considerations), then the building’s shell (tight construction, proper insulation, tinted windows), renewable energy potential (Solarwall panels), the distribution system (HVAC systems with sophisticated independent zone controls, natural ventilation) and finally equipment selection (lighting fixtures with occupancy sensors).

Green design strives to lessen the negative impact on the land and, in this case, the ocean. The Center has two flow-through teaching seawater laboratories. Designers of the recirculating seawater system have been careful to limit the impact on the Saco River. Other land use issues that were considered include site preservation and restoration (preserving trees, topsoil and habitat, as well as restoring indigenous plants following construction), storm water management and erosion control, and parking area and access paving, which has been kept to a minimum. Construction materials included brick from a local source to cut down on transportation.

Future Cost Savings

Addressing green issues certainly doesn’t make a project any cheaper, but the University was committed to building an environmentally responsible building. The resulting energy savings will be dramatic, and the building’s environment will be healthy and congenial for the students, teachers and researchers who will work and study there.

The Marine Science Education and Research Center is not only a great addition to the University Campus, but a building of the future that has set a new standard for green design.