Art + Environment

In 2020 The Ellis-Beauregard Foundation (EBF) began looking for a new space to house its residency program. Serendipitously, the house across the street from the founder’s house came on the market and we were able to purchase that property and a few months later, the one next door to it, thus giving us access to every property on the little dead end road, Knowlton Street, near downtown Rockland just a short walk from it’s beautiful working waterfront. We decided to construct a “campus” of sorts, building four live-work studios with a common area and a black box performance and exhibition space as an addition to the founders house.

We secured Baird Architects of Mt Desert, Maine and Manhattan, NY and began the design process. We were purposeful in hiring an architectural firm that had experience in art related projects like ours, but also one that had a deep background in renewable energy and sustainable design.   We wanted a project that stood firmly with a net zero building aspiration and every aspect of our new building adheres to that principal. In making these choices, we were building for the future, concerned deeply with climate change and we ascribed to the long history of reverence Maine has for it’s natural environment. We also knew that if we could build a campus that was didactic in its environmental accomplishments, we could make an environmental impact on the artists we would house, and by extension with some hope, on the communities they would return to after their residency with us.

To meet our climate goals the overall project has employed a series of innovative systems that taken together are pushing the art of environmentally sensitive architecture to a new level.  The building incorporates six primary systems (and many smaller design moves) to achieve its sustainable goals:

  1. Daylighting Each 20 x 20 artist studio is top lit by a massive north facing triple insulated glass skylight monitor, reminiscent of historic art school studios like Frank Furness’, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, or the Art Students League of New York.  The abundant top lit studios require little or no electric lighting during the daytime to achieve an optimum lighting level for studio art.
  2. Timber Sequestration The buildings employ a heavy timber structural framing system in the form of cross-laminated timber, achieving column-free clear pans.  The exterior walls and internal partitions, as well as the roof slabs and skylight monitors are entirely constructed of Cross Laminated Timber, which sequesters 85.7 tonnes of CO2 permanently within the architecture.
  3. Wood fiber insulation The buildings walls are insulated to a level of R-25 and the roof assembly achieves R-44 continuous.  These insulation levels well exceed the local code for this construction type, and are achieved using a wood fiber insulation that is a biproduct of the timber industry.  Not only is wood fiber inherently more healthy for the indoor air quality, but using wood fiber rigid insulation adds to the capacity of the building to sequester carbon. Conventional insulation types such as mineral wool or extruded polystyrene are energy intensive to produce and utilize petroleum products and HFC blowing agents, which are highly potent greenhouse gases.
  4. Heat Pumps: A highly efficient air-to-water heat pump system, converts solar generated electricity into hot water run through radiant slab heating.  This is a revolutionary system creating excellent heating comfort.  A supplemental air-to-air heat pump system provides ducted heating and cooling. No Scope 1 fossil fuels are combusted to condition the buildings air year round.
  5. A Green Roof: An indigenous planted earthen roof cover the buildings.  This system provides a thermal mass and additional insulation that allows the building to weather dramatic temperature swings, while also protecting the underlying membrane from harmful UV, extending its life almost twofold.  The primary benefit of the earthen roof is that it stores rainwater that would otherwise overwhelm Rockland’s antiquated stormwater drainage system, protecting the downstream marine environment from silt run off and particulate pollution associated with architecture.
  6. Solar Panels and Batteries We have designed the project to allow the future incorporation for a 22KW Solar Array and (2) 13.5kWh storage batteries sufficient to offset the buildings entire annual electrical consumption, which is projected to be 23,746kwh/year. This total draw, should it come from Central Maine Power, (the local utility providing conventional power), would emit 7.8 tonnes of CO2/yr.  Utilizing 22KW of solar PV would have the same effect of planting 278 trees PER YEAR!