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Maine’s First Net-Zero Energy School Under Construction

Rendering of the net-zero energy school

The following release is reposted with permission from Friends School of Portland.

Here on a wooded 21-acre lot, about a mile from the coast of the Atlantic, Maine’s first “net-zero” energy school is under construction.

Friends School of Portland is building a 15,000-square-foot school that will not rely on fossil fuels, and is expected to be the first school in Maine to produce as much energy as it uses. The new school also will be only the third in the United States to achieve Passive House certification, a high international standard for energy efficiency.

The decision to use Passive House design reflects a commitment to environmental stewardship, which is one of the guiding philosophies at Friends School of Portland, a Quaker day school for preschool through 8th grade.

Students breaking ground

“The best part of this project has been seeing how excited and engaged the students and their families have been,” said Jenny Rowe, Head of School. “They have helped steer the whole process. We’re all committed to being good stewards of the land, and to creating a home in Maine that will meet our needs for years to come.”

Friends School of Portland leaders, along with Kaplan Thompson Architects, Warren Construction, and other partners, hope the new building will serve as a model for others interested in sustainable design. The only schools in the U.S. with Passive House certification are in Hollis, N.H., and Rocky Mount, Virginia.

Foundation work

Passive House standards, overseen by Passive House Institute U.S., use solar gain and air ventilation to warm and cool buildings. The new home of Friends School of Portland will not rely on traditional fuels such as oil, gas, coal or wood. With the addition of solar electric panels and thermal tubes for hot water, Friends School of Portland will be a net-zero energy building, meaning that it will produce as much energy as it uses.

The school is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise funds for the $5.5 million project. They have raised about $2 million toward a $2.5 million goal. A second phase of the project, including a gymnasium, is envisioned for the future.