The Friends School of Portland has purchased a swath of land in Cumberland where it plans to build an ultra-efficient school within the next two years, according to the leader of Maine’s only Quaker school.
The move to the 21-acre site on Route 1 near the Falmouth town line will allow the 82-student school to grow and take on a more permanent status in the community, said Jenny Rowe, head of school.
Currently, the school shares space with the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf on Mackworth Island in Falmouth.
“We have limited physical space,” Rowe said. “We want to be able to sit in meeting with each other.”
The school community first will have to raise funds for the construction project, which would be completed between June 2014 and June 2015, she said.
The need for a more spacious gathering place is critical to the tradition of a Quaker meeting, in which congregants — in this case, students and staff — sit together in contemplative silence.
Quakers, formally called the Religious Society of Friends, are a Christian order more than 350 years old. Followers believe that God lives in every person, and that people should minister to one another, often without a traditional leader to guide a service.
After a period of silence at each meeting, people may speak a message, which is not traditionally prepared and is supposed to come from their inner guiding sense of faith.
Quakers also are well known as advocates for social justice and peace — values that helped the Portland Friends School design the planned 14,000 square-foot building. Plans call for the building to feature four classrooms, the meeting space and several multipurpose rooms, along with parking and small outdoor play areas.
The structure will be designed to produce as much energy as it consumes each year, a so-called “net zero” building, which Rowe and staff will use to teach healthy environmental citizenship, she said.
The team of designers, led by principal architect Stephen Blatt of Portland, is considering materials and methods to dramatically lower the need for heating and cooling systems.
“The challenge comes with doing this affordably,” said Phil Kaplan, principal at Kaplan Thompson Architects in Portland, whose firm specializes in high-efficiency, low environmental impact building design, and is collaborating on the project.
The architects are evaluating a German regimen of building standards, called Passivhaus. From the composition of glass in the windows, to the type of caulk used to fill seams in walls and ceilings, the standards provide an exacting guide to insulating the building’s exterior shell and sealing it of air leaks, both key to reducing the need for extensive heating and cooling systems, Kaplan said.
Important to the design process has been the site itself, which features a stream, wetlands and a healthy mix of pine, oak and hemlock trees, said Soren Deniord, of Soren Deniord Design Studio in Portland.
“The school went through some different iterations to find a site that would be in line with their values of conservation,” Deniord said. The Mackworth Island location has provided extensive opportunities for outdoor learning, a tradition the school sought to protect, he said.
Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: