Thornton Academy, Main Street Dormitories

Saco, Maine

B+W’s Master Plan for the construction of three (3) dormitory buildings creates a new residential village for this Town Academy campus and its newly-formed boarding student program.

The initial design challenge was to integrate a new building type and new construction form into the historic campus. The designs respond to the historic context of Main Street in the Saco Historic Preservation District as well as a predominately red brick campus, which has evolved via several construction campaigns during its nearly 125 year history.  The residential quality of other Main Street (and Academy) houses and historic detailing from the campus’ education buildings informed our design.  We believe this approach has achieved a dormitory and future village that complements both the community of Saco and the Academy.

Locating the first dormitory building – Nelson Residence Hall – on a previously unoccupied lawn at the campus’ main entrance, now forms a gateway to the historic campus.  The long axis of the dormitories faces south-southwest for optimal solar exposure and frames the entry to campus create greens or courtyards between each of the proposed buildings.  The street façades, of this and the forthcoming buildings, are designed to establish the street rhythm found on Main Street south of the campus.

Nelson Residence Hall, completed in Summer 2009, is constructed with durable standing seam roofs and fiber-cement cladding in neutral colors that acknowledge existing patterns and textures found on campus buildings without resorting to mimicking the brick, which the project’s budget could not justify.

A tight building envelope with high thermal insulation performance was achieved with the use of ICF (insulated concrete forms) for the foundation and first floor walls and conventional framing with dense pack cellulose insulation at the second-floor level.  The use of ICF benefits the interior architecture as its wall depth creates deep recesses at the windows adding a layer of space for use by the residents.  ICF also allowed an economical and seamless construction season as the contractor was able to pour concrete walls throughout the winter without concern for special freeze protection.  The ICF walls achieved a R-48, far exceeding any current energy code.

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