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March 14, 2018

UNE dedicates new Ripich Commons at its Biddeford campus

Courtesy / University of New England
Courtesy / University of New England
Perhaps the most innovative feature of the new Ripich Commons building on the University of New England's Biddeford campus is its bird-safe glass, covering the entire front fašade of the building and both sides of the bridge.

The University of New England dedicated on March 9 a new eco-friendly building on its Biddeford campus to former UNE President Danielle N. Ripich.

Located on the Biddeford campus' riverfront, the 60,340-square-foot, three-level, multipurpose facility has many innovative, ecologically sound features, including bird-safe glass, which was installed at the request of environmentally conscious undergraduate students.

The building's first floor provides a lounge and socializing area for students, including a sunken living room, a game room, televisions, an abundance of soft seating, a commuter lounge, and a pub.

The second floor, connected to the university's library via a glass bridge, features open study space, rooms for group study and a number of academic services for students. It also has a "reflection room" for prayer, meditation and mindfulness.

The third floor houses a new dining hall showcasing a Mongolian grill. All three levels feature fireplaces as well as large windows on the building's northwestern side with expansive views of the Saco River.

Ripich, who retired as UNE's president at the end of last June, said at the March 9 dedication that she was honored to have the building named after her.

"Although I've moved on from UNE, I left no small part of my heart and soul here, where I dedicated myself to advancing the university in every possible way," Ripich said at the ceremony. "And now, this gorgeous, gleaming building that you've been so kind as to name after me stands as a visual representation of that effort. It stands to serve the students, who were always my inspiration."

Designed with sustainability in mind

Ripich Commons was designed to be ecologically sustainable in accordance with the highest standards of environmentally-friendly construction. It was built using regionally sourced materials as well as materials with high recycled content.

Its solar panels will provide enough energy to power the campus' electric car-charging station. Other features of sustainability include:

A special stormwater runoff system to diminish environmental impact.

Ultra-high efficiency mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, including an energy recovery unit.

A fully automated lighting system that reduces the use of electric lights when daylight is available in order to reduce energy consumption.

An innovative dishwasher system that reduces water consumption and captures all compostable food scraps.

"We are staying true to UNE's vow to champion 'innovation for a healthier plant.' We proudly embrace our role as environmental stewards, and every aspect of Ripich Commons reflects that commitment," said UNE president James Herbert. "The building makes as light an environmental footprint as possible."

Bird-safe glass

Perhaps the most innovative feature of the new commons is its bird-safe glass, covering the entire front fašade of the building and both sides of the bridge. The special glass — which uses technology to break up the reflectivity of glass, thereby alerting birds to its presence — was installed at the request of students who petitioned Ripich for its inclusion.

The students lobbied for the bird-safe glass after viewing a film in an avian ecology and conservation course depicting bird fatalities resulting from traditional window glass strikes.

"The University of New England campus sits on an extremely productive estuary that is home to many avian species, and it's a key stopover point for migratory birds that are fueling up for long-distance, nonstop flights over the ocean to get to their wintering grounds," said UNE senior Kylie Denny, an animal behavior major and environmental studies minor who was one of the students who signed the petition for the glass. "The bird-safe glass is a key feature of the new building because the side of the building that faces the water is mostly glass, and traditional glass is deadly to birds because they do not have the ability to see it."

The building also features a tower, designed to be reminiscent of a lighthouse, an icon incorporated into UNE's university seal that harkens to the historic symbolism of St. Francis College, one of the university's founding institutions.

Work will begin in the spring to add outdoor patios, a fire pit and extensive landscaping to the building's grounds.

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