May 22, 2018
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Pullen Hall renovation latest step in greening of UMPI campus

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Campus officials, business leaders, students and representatives from the state’s congressional delegation Thursday praised extensive work at the University of Maine at Presque Isle that has turned a dated classroom building into a state-of-the-art energy efficient educational facility.

More than 40 people attended the rededication of Pullen Hall, which underwent an extensive five-year, $2.3 million renovation. The facility houses three floors of traditional classrooms, modern “smart classrooms” and a spacious art room and gallery.

The face-lift to UMPI’s major classroom building included the installation of solar panels on the roof, a biomass boiler system in the basement and scattered energy efficiencies throughout the facility.

UMPI President Don Zillman said the project, approximately three quarters of which was funded through external sources such as grants, has allowed the university to secure “another 50 years of very attractive use” out of 42-year-old Pullen Hall. The work has been done in “bits and pieces” since 2006, according to the president.

Last fall, the university secured $750,000 from a Department of Conservation Maine Forest Service wood-to-energy grant to install the new biomass boiler system and change over the distribution system in Pullen Hall from steam to hot water.

Zillman said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins also was instrumental in helping the college garner $800,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to install 90 solar panels and necessary components on the roof of the building. An automated weather station soon will begin collecting information on solar radiation levels and will provide needed baseline data for the future use of solar energy. This information will be used by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

A $475,000 state bond approved by voters as part of a statewide ballot initiative in 2008 also helped finance renovations. The remainder of the project cost was covered through internal funds.

As part of the work on the 19,500-square-foot building, construction crews installed energy efficient windows, improved accessibility for people with disabilities, updated heating and ventilation systems, and added temperature control capabilities to the building. That work began in March and finished in late August.

Charles Bonin, vice president for administration and finance, said the renovation of Pullen Hall was envisioned about 20 years ago, when campus officials began planning for the future. That led to the university deciding to bury all of its power lines and put an energy efficient air conditioning system in the library to cut costs. They also replaced roofs and windows in the residence halls and added more insulation and did similar work at Kelley Commons.

The university also invested in an energy management system, which enables officials to control heat, air conditioning and other systems in buildings on campus, including the Houlton Higher Education Center. The newest building on campus, Gentile Hall, was built to be as energy efficient as possible.

“We appreciate all of the support in terms of grants and other funding, as well as the support of faculty and staff and the people of Maine who voted on the bond,” said Bonin. “Without that joint effort, this would not have happened. We have a state-of-the-art facility now.”

UMPI Professor David Putnam urged campus officials to consider solar panels after becoming a member of a campus committee charged with making the university more energy efficient. He described how the art studio in Pullen, which is on the top floor, was always stifling hot because of the heat absorbed by the flat, black roof on the building. One student collapsed from heat exhaustion last year.

Putnam contacted Sen. Collins’ office to see if there was funding UMPI could tap into to purchase the solar panels, and collaborated with other campus personnel to write a proposal to secure the federal funding. He also helped write the grant that secured money for the biomass boiler.

Putnam said the renovations will help the campus save money and serve as a teaching tool for students who are seeking degrees in the environmental field.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud praised the university in a written statement, saying that the green renovation of Pullen Hall “represents another step forward for our state” and will serve as a model for other institutions to follow. Collins noted in her own statement that the changes will enhance the learning environment on campus, and she praised the fact that the biomass system will use pellets manufactured in Aroostook County. Northeast Pellets in Ashland will be the initial supplier.

Snowe also congratulated UMPI on the renovations, saying that the investments in biomass, solar and energy efficiency demonstrated “the superb capacity of this region and our state for harnessing the natural resources and ingenuity that have always been hallmarks of our economy and way of life.”

Crews were hired by the university to handle the renovations. A&L Construction of Presque Isle was the general contractor, and Patrick St. Peter and Sons of Caribou served as the mechanical subcontractor. County Electric Inc. of Caribou was the electrical subcontractor, and North Peak Architecture of Presque Isle completed the architectural work.

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