The Friends School of Portland, an independent K-8 learning environment centered on long-held Quaker-based standards and beliefs, was founded on principles of peace, inquiry, simplicity, and stewardship. Moving from a vibrant, island location to a wooded, 25-acre lot, there was a challenge to maintain the strong connection to the outdoors, especially for a school where the outdoor experience is part of their everyday learning program.
Requirements included strong integration with the landscape through multiple, direct connections to outdoor spaces, use of natural and local materials, and the elimination of fossil fuels. Could this school be an example for kids as to how all buildings must be constructed in order to combat climate change?
The new school will generate 100% of its own energy on site through only 40kW of photovoltaic panels, reducing future operations costs dramatically and decreasing endowment dependence. As the 3rd Passive House-Certified School in the country, it will attain extreme durability and comfort and a 90% reduction in heating energy use. High-performance building assemblies have been used throughout and mechanical systems have been significantly reduced, as well as the related maintenance costs in this all-electric building.
These far-reaching goals were achieved due in large part to a fully integrated design process, which involved client and consultants meeting together as a team starting very early in the process. Because of clear team feedback, a motivated and invested builder, and an aligned, responsive client, the school was able to be constructed for a modest $195/sf.
Most exposed interior wood was harvested directly from the site, some in lengths of up to 24 feet. This wood runs throughout the school and into the primarily day-lit classrooms. The columns that support the rear entry are preserved trunks of an old oak tree that formerly stood right near that same spot. The Big Room features walls and an undulating ceiling of site-harvested wood, which lifts your eye and spirit toward the sun as it streams through the trees along the creek to the south. A 12-foot wide door opens onto the amphitheater for outdoor performances. A bridge connects the upper level to a playfield to the east.
Joe Hemes, Hemesphere Design; Ian McDonald, Allied Engineering, Soren Deniord, Soren Deniord Design Studio; Eric Dube, Casco Bay Engineering; Steve Blais, Blais Engineering; Larry Bartlett, Electrical Engineer; Naomi C. O. Beal, Passive House Advocate