Fall 2021 over COA campus Credit: Mike Perlman
The Davis Center for Human Ecology—the first of a constellation of six interconnected projects which will transform the north end of campus—opened for classes for the 2021 spring term, and officially opened in the fall of 2021. It is COA’s first purpose-built academic building since the early 1990s.

The 29,000-square-foot building overlooking Frenchman Bay houses science laboratories, classrooms, flexible lecture halls, faculty offices, art and design studios, and a teaching greenhouse. Currently over 60% of all classes are held in this innovative space. In September 2021, the teaching greenhouse was dedicated as the Congresswoman Chellie Pingree ’79 Greenhouse.

Classroom Credit: Jen Holt Photography

Designed in collaboration with architect Susan Rodriguez and Maine-based OPAL (formerly GO Logic), and constructed by local builder E.L. Shea, the Center is one of the most distinctive buildings on Mount Desert Island.  “Our team has worked hard to design a building that could only be here. One that is derived from this unique intersection of the natural world and the study of human ecology,” Rodriguez said at fall 2021 convocation. “Our goal has been to create a place that truly fits COA… more of an experience and a framework than a building, one that supports the vitality of campus life and the broad array of study. Ultimately a place of learning and a structure that lives up to the environmental stewardship and standards of this institution.”

Constructed to the stringent German Passive House standard of energy efficiency and indoor air quality, the Center will consume 80% less energy than a comparable code-compliant building. The building makes extensive use of low-embodied carbon and locally sourced materials—including a nearly all-wood structure and wood fiber insulation—which radically reduce its lifecycle carbon footprint, effectively neutralizing the environmental impact of its construction. The Center will save and sequester over five million kg of CO2 in its first 50 years with responsible and renewable material and passive house-level energy use, according to architect Tim Lock of OPAL. In addition, all windows feature innovative bird-friendly glazing to mitigate bird collisions.

In addition to the Davis Center for Human Ecology, the reimagining of north campus includes expansion of Gates Auditorium to include an experimental theatre, renovation of the existing Arts & Sciences building, and construction of a new Welcome Center, which will house the Admission office and a new gallery.

$22M represents all costs associated with all new constructions, renovations of existing spaces, a $1M maintenance fund, and a $1M operating fund. Learn more.

Fall 2021 CHE Credit: Mike Perlman


November 1, 2021: Davis Center for Human Ecology featured in Architectural Record, alongside six other innovative designs from around the world (read more).

Special thanks to:

Kate and Andrew Davis
Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture • Design
E.L. Shea Builders and Engineers
Revision Energy

Classroom Credit: Jen Holt Photography

Exterior Credit: Darron Collins

Hallway Credit: Jen Holt Photography

Exterior Credit: Darron Collins