By Ramona du Houx
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts cutting-edge research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. The laboratory’s research, education, and enterprise programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.
As a leader in innovation people come from all over the world to connect with the laboratory. Bigelow's educational programs serve high school students from every county in Maine, undergraduate students from across the U.S., professional short course attendees, and visiting scientists from around the globe. With Bigelow's programs growing there became a need for more housing.
That's why on January 5, 2016, the Harold Alfond Foundation announced a $3.1 million award to Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences for construction of a 32-bed student and visiting scientist residence with four visitor’s apartments on the Laboratory’s East Boothbay Campus.
“We are both honored and delighted that the Harold Alfond Foundation has recognized the value of the Laboratory’s education programs by offering its generous support, making it possible for us to house students and visitors safely and comfortably on site while participating in our many educational and collaborative research programs,” said Graham Shimmield, executive director of Bigelow Laboratory. “It will allow us to expand our educational programs so more students and professionals have access to our world-class scientists.”
An anonymous donor has matched the award, allowing the project to break ground in April 2016. A separate endowment has been established to cover maintenance and operating costs of the new facility for 50 years.
"This is exactly the type of project that the Harold Alfond Foundation likes to support," said Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation Board of Trustees. "Bigelow Laboratory's new residence met or exceeded all of our requirements. The project is entrepreneurial in that it will allow the Laboratory to expand its educational offerings to not only students but to professionals, which, in turn, will help ensure economic growth for the Laboratory and the region. The project is rock solid financially and matched by a generous donor. Plus, it will be overseen by a great management team at Bigelow Laboratory, who have great vision and optimism for the state of Maine."
The new 15,000 square-foot dormitory residence will overlook the Damariscotta River on the Laboratory’s East Boothbay campus and will be a short walk from the main Laboratory building and its shore facility. Energy efficiency, ease of maintenance, and respect for the surrounding environment embody the design.
The ground floor will be below grade to accommodate the natural slope of the landscape, creating a courtyard surrounded by ledge or a “natural amphitheater” in the upper area. A partial green roof will help absorb rainwater, provide insulation, and help create an aesthetically pleasing natural look for the structure.
A mixture of glass, natural wood, aluminum, and preformed concrete construction materials will promote longevity and easy maintenance, while allowing the building to blend into the wooded acreage of the waterfront site. A 75 kW array of photovoltaic cells will provide energy to meet all electric needs of the residence, including heating and ventilation. Windows, doors, and insulation will all be energy efficient and provide maximum R-value rating.
“We are striving for a Net Zero Energy building,” added Shimmield. “Since inhabiting our energy-efficient laboratory space that opened in December 2012, we personally understand how efficient energy use and construction goes a long way toward making a building pleasant to be in, and we are sure the same will hold true for the students and guests in the new residence.”
The two-story structure will have 8 double bedrooms on each floor that can be flexibly arranged to accommodate guests numbering from 8 to 32. It also will provide a communal student kitchen and social area, adaptable meeting space that can serve dual functions as an auditorium or recreation area, and fitness and laundry areas.
Two adjacent wings will contain three studio apartments with kitchen, bedroom, and bath to accommodate visiting scientists and other guests, and a two-bedroom apartment to house visitors with families.
Scott Simons Architects of Portland, Maine designed the building. The Portland office of Consigli Construction Company, Inc. is providing construction management services.