Maine's First State Facility Receives LEED Certification

The recently expanded and renovated John Mitchell Center at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, designed by Harriman Associates, has received LEED certification from the USGBC. The University of Southern Maine serves 11,089 students with campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn. The Mitchell Center is the first state-owned building to receive certification and only the second LEED-certified building in the state.

The John Mitchell Center, named after a former professor emeritus who was a national leader in industrial education, focuses on providing education programs, consulting, product testing and related services needed to grow the manufacturing, construction, electronics and information technology industries in Maine.“Science and technology programs are critical to the region if we are to further Maine’s economy,” said John Wright, dean of the School of Applied Science, Engineering and Technology (ASET).

The $5.7-million project involved the design of a new 23,000-sq.-ft Advanced Technology wing and renovations to the existing 35,000-sq.-ft John Mitchell Center, which was built in 1965. The expanded facility provides:

• enlarged learning spaces that can accommodate industrial robotics, digital arts and technology, as well as environmental safety and health laboratory instruction
• a materials testing laboratory
• a“learning factory” to familiarize students with new manufacturing techniques
• additional classroom space.

According to Harriman project manager Kevin Whitney, “the project presented two challenges: designing an addition that was an expression of the innovative industrial education programs it contains while acknowledging the 40-year-old existing building and coming up with green initiatives that would make this a LEED certified building.”

Some of the green design and construction initiatives taken to obtain LEED certification included:

• Construction and design materials, such as carpets, paints, panels and other elements, were selected because they emit fewer problematic compounds into the air during manufacture, installation and post-installation.
• Nearly 60 percent of wood used (based on total costs) for construction was purchased from local, Forest Stewardship Council Certified sources, thereby supporting sound forest management practices, reducing transportation-related pollution and boosting the region’s economy.
• Fifty percent of the electricity used by the Mitchell Center effectively will be fossil-fuel-free for at least the first two years of operation, using a contract for the “environmental attributes” of electricity generated by wind turbines.
• Water-efficient plumbing fixtures used throughout the Mitchell Center will permit the facility to meet its needs using 26 percent less water.
• Almost 90 percent of the construction-related wastes were recycled or reused, resulting in cleaner air for the community as less waste is processed in local incinerators. These materials — asphalt pavement, concrete pavement and walls, and drywall — were processed and found their way into a new runway at the Portland Jetport, a 2.5-mile stretch of roadway, and into roadway base material.

“In engineering, technology seeks to be as efficient as possible,” says Dean Wright. “When you combine engineering, our students, faculty and friends, and this building, this is efficiency — and it works. This is a great example of a sustainable building for young people who will be entering engineering and technology professions and give them a sense of responsibility.”

Harriman Associates,, provides architecture and engineering design services for education, healthcare, commercial, retail and government clients throughout New England from offices in Portland and Auburn, Maine, and Portsmouth, N.H.

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