Published November 28, 2022 by Tom Porter

Bowdoin’s Pioneering Mass Timber Project Subject of Case Study

The completion of Barry Mills Hall and the John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies, expected in January 2023, will mark a significant milestone in the development of a sustainable construction industry in Maine.

gibbons construction using mass timber
Mass timber used in the construction of the John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies

Situated on the eastern edge of campus, the two buildings are the first commercial construction project in the state of Maine to use mass timber, a pioneering wood-based product, as its primary load-bearing material—a fact celebrated by industry professionals and observers.

“From the College’s commitment to carbon neutrality, to its location among a grove of pine trees to the timber-rich history of Maine, the project setting seemed well-suited for a mass timber structure,” wrote Lauren Piepho, PE, a structural engineer at HGA—the lead architecture and engineering firm on the project—in the case study, “Furthering Mass Timber Construction,” published with construction partner Consigli, Inc. in July. 

Mass timber, a mix of glue-laminated timber columns and beams and cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, was chosen for several reasons. The wood-based material is lighter than steel or concrete and quicker to install. Another important factor is mass timber’s significantly reduced carbon footprint.

“Trees naturally sequester carbon as they grow,” reads the case study. “This carbon is retained in the wood when a tree is harvested, allowing it to offset some of the carbon required to fabricate, transport, and erect the final product.” Read the case study in its entirety.

Barry Mills Hall, which is scheduled to be open for the spring semester, will house two academic departments and is planned to include a sixty-person cinema classroom, four forty-to-sixty-seat flexible classrooms, twelve offices, huddle spaces for faculty and student collaboration, and a large event and catering space with a 300-person seated capacity.

The John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies, due to open in late spring 2023, will include exhibition spaces, archeology research and teaching labs, a classroom, and offices for museum staff.

Bowdoin is one of ten institutions to receive funding from the US Forest Service in partnership with the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that works collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities.

Bowdoin, which achieved carbon neutrality in 2018, two years ahead of schedule, continues to make decreasing its reliance on fossil fuels a priority in operational decisions. Read more about sustainability at Bowdoin

An Alumna Writes:

Mass Timber: “Climate Solution and Economic Opportunity”

“As the engineered wood material called mass timber gains traction in Maine, supporters believe it could both help lower carbon emissions from new buildings and galvanize the growth of the state’s forestry industry,” writes business and technology journalist Sarah Shemkus ’99 in Energy News Network.

Shemkus reports there’s optimism among advocates “that Maine could become a producer as well as a consumer of mass timber, helping to bolster the state’s forest products sector, which has suffered significant job losses in recent years with a series of paper mill closures.”

Read the article, “In Maine, Mass Timber Seen as a Climate Solution and an Economic Opportunity.”

About HGA
HGA is a national interdisciplinary design firm committed to making a positive, lasting impact for our clients and communities through research-based, holistic solutions. We believe that great design requires a sense of curiosity—forming deep insight into our clients, their contexts, and the human condition. We are a collective of more than 1,000 architects, engineers, interior designers, planners, researchers, and strategists. Our practice spans multiple markets, including corporate, cultural, education, local and federal government, healthcare, and science and technology. Visit HGA.com or follow on LinkedIn, InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. 

About Consigli Construction Co., Inc.
Consigli Construction Co., Inc. is a leading construction manager in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Consigli services clients across all markets, including academic, health care, life sciences, institutional, energy, corporate, and federal. Founded in 1905, Consigli is now an employee-owned (ESOP) company providing its people a direct benefit of its success and creating a culture of accountability. The company has offices in Massachusetts, Washington, DC, Maine, Connecticut, New York, and the Caribbean. Consigli has received numerous awards for its craftsmanship and employment practices, including being nationally recognized as a Forbes Best Employer. For more information, visit consigli.com, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.