A Hands on Education at the Ecology School

Kaplan Thompson, BRIBURN, and Simons Architects worked together to design and build new additions to The Ecology School
Words By Anna Mangum
Photos By Trent Bell
Architects:Kaplan Thompson, BRIBURN, Simons Architects|Builders:Zachau Construction|Landscape Architect:Richardson & Associates|Solar Panels:ReVision Energy

Climate change isn’t something that is going to impact the earth far off into the future; it’s impacting us now. Luckily, Drew Dumsch, founder of The Ecology School in Saco, has an optimistic view to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. His goal is to bring people together to experience sustainable learning and technology. The Ecology School is a residential environmental school where kids and adults can stay for several days to learn about the earth. What makes the school unique is that the buildings are a key part of the learning that happens on-site. The project was a teaching moment for three different architects—BRIBURN, Kaplan Thompson, and Simons Architects. Drew laughs, “When Jesse Thompson was presenting this project at a conference in Seattle, there was an audible gasp from the audience when he said that three different architect firms were collaborating on The Ecology School.” Drew went on to say that he had no idea it was rare for architects to come together to work on a project, especially one of such an undertaking. The Ecology School is more than the average sustainable build in Maine—its solar panels generate 105% of the energy needed to keep the school running, more than necessary. The commercial kitchen is entirely electric, and much of the produce prepared comes straight from the 105 acres of farmland.

The dining commons is climate positive, which means they create 105% of the energy needed to keep the building operating. 

While the design is highly efficient, there was also careful consideration about the use of the spaces. The two new buildings that broke ground in 2019, the commons dining hall and the dorms, were made to bring people together. The idea that it takes people working together to educate and be educated about our environment manifested in the building design. Whether students are coming to learn about mushrooms or green building technologies, the school offers year-round classes that share a common thread: a love of the earth, and a desire to understand, protect, and preserve.

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