We see our campus as a laboratory for sustainability; all new construction is built using green technologies and building practices. Our older structures, including many buildings that were initially constructed more than 100 years ago, are gradually being renovated and retrofitted to increase efficiency through new heating systems, appliances, windows, doors, light fixtures, and insulation. We’ve made great strides across campus, but there’s still plenty of work to bring us to our goal of being fully fossil fuel-free.

Davis Center for Human Ecology

Center for human ecology, Summer 22'

Our newest and greenest addition to campus is the Davis Center for Human Ecology. Through its design, the building expresses COA’s pedagogical model of interdisciplinary education alongside a deeply held commitment to environmental sustainability. The new facilities reflect the diverse interests of the faculty and student body, including studios for painting, printmaking, drawing, and digital media, and laboratories for botany, chemistry, geology, zoology, and physics. Constructed according to stringent Passive House Standards of energy efficiency and indoor air quality, the building consumes 80% less energy than a comparable, code-reliant structure. The center’s use of locally sourced materials also contributes to reducing its life-cycle carbon footprint and the construction environmental impact of construction. 


A center powered by sun and students

Renewable energy in the Davis Center is generated from a large solar array that extends across the roof of the building. Passive heat gain from occupants reduces the required heating and cooling load, allowing for simple mechanical systems that require less energy than a comparable building.

The search for viable sources of energy that is replenished in a higher rate than it is consumed is at the forefront of conservation efforts and innovative solutions for climate distress. Fossil fuels and their derivatives are some of the biggest  causes of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. The practice of employing construction techniques that further our mission and values while also contributing to sustainable innovation is a crucial part of bringing the study of human ecology into the 21st century.

Bird-safe glass and solar control graphs

Bird-safe glass mitigates collisions by using UV-reflective coating perceptible only to birds, while the brise soleil manages solar heat gain during warm months, maintaining transparency to maximize daylight throughout the building.

Anywhere from 100 million to one billion birds die yearly in the US after striking windows. By installing Ornilux bird-safe glass at the Center for Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic is playing a small, but necessary role in turning this trend around. 


The Kathryn W. Davis Village

Kathryn W. Davis Village


Village wood pellet boiler

The Kathryn W. Davis Village is our newest and most sustainable residential complex: solar panels provide electricity; walls are packed with twelve inches of insulation made from recycled cellulose; heat and hot water are supplied by a centralized wood pellet boiler system; showers have a heat recovery system that uses gray water to temper incoming cold water; “light shelf” technology directs natural light into interior spaces and helps maximize passive solar gain; and composting toilets minimize water use and recycle human waste. And with all that the village is home to 57 students every year.

Students installing new solar panels in one of the residential buildings as part of work study Solar arrays are also prevalent across campus, and on both of the college’s farms. There are three separate arrays totaling 99 panels at the Kathryn W. Davis Village and both farms host more than 100 panels. Energy-saving LED bulbs are also installed across campus. Motion sensors control lights in the hallways of several buildings, and campus energy audits have found that community members are so diligent about turning off lights, that sensors have been deemed unnecessary in many other areas. Visit our energy page to learn more about our renewable energy and energy-efficiency efforts. 

The Turrets

Turrets in summer

Built in 1895, The Turrets, our 13,000 square foot, stone castle-like administrative building was renovated in 2013 to improve structural integrity and energy efficiency. We replaced 99 old, leaky single-pane windows with new thermopane windows, and conducted significant air sealing that has saved approximately 1400 gallons of heating oil each winter.

Our campus and properties are managed in an holistic and ecologically sensitive manner, without the use of synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides. Our landscape management is based on the overarching campus goals of promoting sustainability, biodiversity, and educational opportunity.

Learn more about sustainability at COA on our environmental commitment page