First Passive House School In Maine Is Also Net Zero Energy

The Friends School of Portland in Maine is the first Passive House modular school building in the state, and only the third in the country.  The neighboring OceanView Retirement Community is donating solar panels for the school to use, making the facility net zero energy (NZE).

“One of our core values is stewardship and we certainly apply that to our environment,” said Jenny Rowe, Head of School at the Friends School of Portland.  

“This new facility not only provides a symbol of that value, but increases the capacity for our students to learn it and live it.”

The independent school, which offers pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade classes, successfully raised the nearly $2.5 million it needed, out of a total $3.7 million cost, to construct the 15,000-square-foot building that sits on a 21-acre, largely wooded parcel.

A special, intergenerational partnership between OceanView at Falmouth and the Friends School of Portland allowed the school to enter into a power purchase agreement with the senior living community, which provided the funds to purchase and install a 144-panel solar array.  

The array will allow the school to produce as much energy as it consumes, thereby achieving net zero status. Much of the wood used in the school’s meeting room was harvested directly from the site when it was cleared.  

Several large logs are brightly painted and make great play surfaces in the school’s playground. True to the Passive House design standard, the building depends mostly on natural ventilation and the use of solar heat gain and building mass to heat and cool the interior spaces.  

It does have a few ductless split-system air conditioners to help with cooling. Windows are triple-paned and the R-value of the insulation is double or triple that of a standard building.  The building is also extremely air-tight, reducing leakage and heat transfer.

Students and parents helped pack for the move, and load, unload and clean items.  “This is such a community effort,” Rowe said.  “It feels like such a great welcome.”