Coastal Enterprises, Inc.’s (CEI’s) new headquarters in Brunswick, Maine, earned a prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum accreditation, the highest level for building energy efficiency and sustainability, and one of just six awarded in Maine for new commercial construction since the standard was created.
According to Gunnar Hubbard, LEED Fellow, principal and sustainability practice leader at Thornton Tomasetti, a global structural engineering firm with its sustainability office in Portland, Maine, and colleague Heather Walters, the senior project manager and LEED consultant on the build, getting to a platinum-level certification was far from certain, given Maine’s climate (cold winters and hot summers) and CEI’s relatively moderate budget.
“Originally we didn’t think a platinum-level certification would be possible, but as the design progressed, CEI really wanted to pursue maximum efficiency and sustainability, and the contractor was able to deliver,” says Hubbard. “It’s an interesting story, actually, as we were challenged by both location and budget, which made us all have to think outside the box to get there.”
Built in 2015, CEI’s new headquarters consolidates multiple offices and brings the CEI family of enterprises together under one roof. Creating an environmentally sustainable building was always a top priority, especially for CEI’s founder and CEO Ron Phillips, who worked tirelessly to ensure that the building was completed prior to his retirement in 2016. Sustainability is a central tenet of CEI’s work as a mission-driven investor to help grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity.
CEI relied on a diverse team to oversee the work, including John Egan, CEI’s SVP of lending and investing, COO Corenna Howard, and Construction Analyst Tom Donahue, who worked closely with CWS Architects, AlliedCook Construction of Scarborough, and Thornton Tomasetti.
Since its founding in 1977, CEI has focused on the environment in its financing, consulting, and policy advocacy for businesses and projects in Maine and rural regions throughout the U.S. Many of these businesses, including ocean and land-based food systems, renewable energy, and nature-based tourism, rely on natural resources. Recent examples from CEI’s investment portfolio of nearly 400 companies are Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC), which brings environmentally conscious, marine-powered electricity to rural areas, and Goranson Farm, in Dresden, which installed a solar array in order to become energy independent.
“When CEI embarked on the transition of its physical resources into the 21st century, they made it clear that delivering a new headquarters building, which boldly demonstrated a sustainable path forward for Maine – and the world – would be a central pillar of their move,” says Benedict B. Walter, president of CWS Architects.
“As the planning and design evolved, even as challenges presented themselves, CEI continued to raise the bar,” said Walter. “Ultimately, their commitment resulted in a very efficient facility that taps natural solar and ground water resources without relying on any carbon-sourced operating equipment. Accordingly, their new central office facility is a model development for any business looking for a responsible path forward and proved that CEI truly walks the walk.”
The new office space was designed to maximize daylight in conference rooms and interior spaces and provide accents on the building’s façade that are in keeping with Brunswick’s town character. A reflective white roof minimizes the urban heat-island-effect that contributes to higher temperatures in cities while reducing the cooling load in summer months. AlliedCook chose regionally sourced and recycled materials and installed a highly efficient ground water source heat pump heating and cooling system, which is powered by a photovoltaic system (solar panels). No fossil fuel is used at the site for heating and cooling of the 22,000-square-foot structure.
LEED certification is based on a point system, with each of the first three levels requiring 10 additional points to achieve. An extra 20 points is required, however, to make the leap from Gold-level to Platinum, the highest certification possible. CEI’s building received all of the available points for energy efficiency, due to its energy-efficient lighting, heating, cooling and mechanical systems, as well as insulation. The solar array of photovoltaic panels, installed on the building’s roof, produces more than half of the electricity used in the building.
Heather Walters points out that many of these measures were low- rather than high-tech. “CEI was able to achieve the highest level of energy efficiency using standard technology,” she said. “Whereas some high-tech projects have the budget to order and ship in state-of-the-art materials, we call the materials for this project, ‘state-of-the-shelf,’ meaning that the contractor was able to source locally available materials and get the same result.”
This also added to the building’s sustainability rating while reducing costs. For example, the light maple wood that is visible throughout the building was sourced primarily from Maine and New England, and the flooring was provided by angela adams, a local designer.
John Egan, who served as the internal project manager for the entire construction process, emphasizes how much input staff at CEI had on both the building’s layout and design, and says, “The best part of the building is that we don’t use any fossil fuels on the site. We elected to heat and cool with energy from the earth in an effort to be as self-sufficient as we can.”