Brunswick board likes plan for new Bowdoin College building

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BRUNSWICK — Designs for Bowdoin College’s first new academic building in more than a decade – a multi-million dollar environmental studies center – received high praise and little criticism from the Planning Board, which approved an initial sketch plan last week.

Tentatively named the Roux Center for the Environment, the 29,167-square-foot building will occupy the trapezoidal parcel at 38 Harpswell Road, with an entrance on College Street.

Architect Tim Mansfield called the entrance “the lantern,” in reference to the multi-story glass atrium included in early design renderings.

Matthew Orlando, Bowdoin’s interim head of finance and administration, said the total cost of the project is not yet known, but a $10 million gift from David and Barbara Roux, of Upperville, Virginia, made up a “sizable portion” of the cost. David Roux is a trustee of the college, which announced last February that the couple’s gift would make the building possible.

In line with the academic disciplines it will house, the project is on track to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the highest level of sustainability certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, according to Mansfield.

“The building will be a lesson in environmental sustainability in and of itself,” Mansfield said in an email, in which he outlined plans to pursue high efficiency mechanical systems, a high performance building envelope, sustainable building materials, and a photo-voltaic array on the roof.

More glass, trading off with panels of thermally modified cedar – a processed wood that is durable and weathers into a grayish hue – will make up the exterior of the 42-foot-tall building, which rises three asymmetrical stories. Following suit with the unusual shape of the parcel, the quasi-triangular footprint resembles two limbs that eventually merge.

Mansfield told the Planning Board that the “idea of the plan is to create a lot of interaction between the students and the faculty.” One limb will contain classrooms and the other will house faculty offices and laboratory space; the space in between is designed as common area.

The building will also have a lecture hall and a terrace roof and garden.

To create a better “dialogue” between the buildings, Mansfield said the college will swap the entrance and exit of the neighboring horseshoe-shaped parking lot behind 38 College St., the college’s Asian Studies department building.

There are no plans to increase the amount of parking in the area, because the building will only redistribute, not increase, the number of faculty who already have places to park on campus. With the exception of the occasional lecture, Mansfield said he doesn’t expect the building to affect traffic in the area.

“This looks wonderful,” board member Sande Updegraph said, expressing the apparent consensus of the board, which unanimously approved the plans with almost no discussion Nov. 10.

The Roux Center will be Bowdoin’s first new academic building since 2004, when it built Kanbar Hall on the northeastern corner of the main campus.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

A schematic of the new Roux Center for the Environment, which is set to become Bowdoin College’s newest academic building since 2004.

Edited 11/15 to correct Sande Updegraph’s name.

Edited 4/20 to correct square footage of the building.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or