The COA Davis Center for Human Ecology is a 29,000-square-foot, ecologically designed, oceanfront... The COA Davis Center for Human Ecology is a 29,000-square-foot, ecologically designed, oceanfront facility for the study of the arts, humanities, and sciences.

COA’s new Davis Center for Human Ecology is an architecturally designed, oceanfront hub for interdisciplinary studies, with state-of-the-art science labs, art studios, offices, study spaces, and classrooms. The facility is a case study of sustainable construction in a far-northern climate.

The center is designed to meet passive-house standards and is the nation’s largest building insulated by wood fiber, a natural, renewable alternative to The COA Davis Center for Human Ecology is the newest addition to the College of the Atlantic camp... The COA Davis Center for Human Ecology is the newest addition to the College of the Atlantic campus. Credit: Jen Holt Photographysynthetic insulation. The building uses 350+ solar panels, triple-insulated, bird-safe windows, and mass timber construction—all locally sourced, non-toxic, renewable materials. The building is 29,000 SF but will use less energy than three 2,000 SF homes and sequester more than 5.1M pounds of carbon.

“The Davis Center for Human Ecology embodies the principles that have guided us as an institution for 50 years and we are very proud,” says Darron Collins, president of COA. “Since 1969, we’ve been educating our students on how small actions and behaviors can catalyze a global impact—together we can make a difference on climate change,” Collins adds.

The Earth’s overall temperature is up two degrees; sea level is up eight inches; glacial countries and continents have lost billions of tons of ice; and the Gulf of Maine is warming 99% faster than all other bodies of water according to NASA’s Global Climate Change Initiative. The commercial and residential construction industries make up 39-percent of all carbon (CO2) emissions every year.

“This building is a case study for building performance and sustainability,” says Tim Lock, management partner for OPAL. As the building performance consultant and architect-of-record for the Davis Center, Lock adds that “the Davis Center sets a benchmark for the construction and design industries on how to build without negatively impacting the planet, and in fact, will leave it better off.”

Every classroom in the COA Davis Center for Human Ecology has sweeping ocean views. Every classroom in the COA Davis Center for Human Ecology has sweeping ocean views. Credit: Jen Holt PhotographyBelfast-based OPAL shares the College’s vision of putting the “planet before profit,” Lock says. After working with wood fiber insulation at the Davis Center and seeing its potential to revitalize Maine’s forest product industry, OPAL works closely with their sister company, GO Lab. Tucked away in Madison, Maine, GO Lab will boast the country’s first wood fiber insulation production facility and the 1903 mill will once again fuel the regional economy. Made from sustainable, renewable, Maine-sourced wood chip remnants, GO Labs will manufacture wood fiber insulation, making it the first producer in North America.

The College of the Atlantic has been voted the greenest college in America five years in a row by the Princeton Review for its integration of sustainability into the curriculum, focus on food systems, waste reduction, and recycling efforts. Founded in 1969, students design their own major relating to human ecology—how people engage with the environment and each other.