The Green Architecture of the Rolde Nature Center

by Meg Haskell

The next time you come to the Fields Pond Nature Center, take a
moment to consider the grace and simplicity of the L. Robert Rolde

Approached from the road, it seems almost to have grown where it
stands; it feels "organic" to its situation in the old
farm fields. Inside, the clean, open floor plan, natural lighting,
and high ceilings adapt the building to a variety of uses and seasons.
This is a building that feels like part of the landscape, like it’s
been here forever.

But what may seem like a "natural" blend of art and function
is actually the result of much planning and research. This year-old
building not only pleases the senses but also meets the stringent
demands of its environmentally-minded designers and users. Consistent
with the policies of the Maine Audubon Society, Fields Pond Building
Committee chair Jim Hinds wanted a building that respected the environment,
made use of sustainable and recycled materials, and would promote
environmental awareness.

The result is the L. Robert Rolde Nature Center, designed by Holland
and Foley Building Designs of Northport, Maine, and named in honor
of the lead donor’s late father. The 2400 square foot building rests
on a previous building site, and required minimal disturbance of
the surrounding soil and vegetation. Because it takes advantage of
existing vegetation, the building is sheltered from winter winds
and summer sun, and boasts a low-maintenance, water-efficient landscape.
Large, south-facing windows gather the sun’s energy, and in the lofty,
open space heat circulates evenly.

The designers chose building materials for their renewable, low-technology
sources and for their recycled contents. Thus, the steel studs in
the walls are made with 30% recycled metal, the insulation is nearly
100% recycled newspaper, and the wallboard is up to 20% recycled
gypsum. All plastic and aluminum materials are high in recycled content
as well, and the durable linoleum on the floor is made of linseed
oil, wood flour, and jute. Wood trim in the building makes use of
both heart and sap woods, resulting in a colorful appearance and
low waste of the native maple. Interior paints and carpets were chosen
for their low-fume, low volatile organic compound content, enhancing
the healthy indoor environment of this weathertight structure. Artificial
heat in the nature center is provided by a small propane furnace.

If you like the "message" of the Rolde Center — that
grace, efficiency, function, and resource conservation can and should
co-exist in our structures — you may adapt many of these building
designs and materials for use in your home.

Many books and periodicals address this "green architecture";
here are a few to get you started:

The New Natural House Book by David Pearson 1998, Fireside Press
Healthy By Design by David Rousseau and James Wasley 1997, Hartley
and Marks
Places of the Soul by Christopher Day 1993, Thorsons Publishing Maine
Audubon staff and volunteers are proud of the Fields Pond Nature
Center, and are always glad to share information and ideas about
living lightly and respectfully on the land.

This article previously appeared in Habitat.