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University Of Southern Maine Begins Construction On New Energy-Saving Portland Dorm

University of Southern Maine
Rendering of the future Residential Quad at the University of Southern Maine's Portland campus.

University of Southern Maine officials say a new dorm to be constructed on the school's Portland campus will be one of the largest to reach green building standards.

The university has recently started construction on the new dorm, its first on its Portland campus, as well as a new student and career center. The projects are scheduled to be completed in about two years and were funded with state bonds.

Student Raul Gierbolini says Portland offers a lot of opportunities for internships and connections, but housing in the city has always been in short supply for students.

“And there's a lot of other factors that come in, like transportation. Do I always take the bus? Or do I get a car? There are a lot of other things that come into play,” Gierbolini says. “And I think having this housing development in Portland will be really great for the students, and make things more accessible.”

The new dorm will have the capacity to house 580 students. President Glenn Cummings says that will give USM students affordable housing options that they've been lacking for decades. He says the dearth of affordable housing in Portland has forced students to make difficult financial choices.

"Should I take that extra class, or extra two or three classes or should I even return in the fall? Or should I try to work more and pay for my apartment? And that really creates an unfortunate decision that could limit their ability to stay in school or complete their degree,” Cummings says.

The new dormitory is also being built to so-called "Passive House" standards, designed to use 50% less energy than a traditional building. The school says the new dormitory will be the seventh-largest Passive House building in the country.

USM currently only has dorms on its nearby campus in Gorham.