UMF’s biomass plant began operation in 2016. Submitted Photo

FARMINGTON — University Maine Farmington is taking advantage of the slower summer months to work on a number of projects that aim to reduce costs and satisfy the needs of the residential student body.

“These campus upgrades are an important investment in Farmington’s future,” Joseph McDonnell, president of the university, said. “They will help the university be more cost effective and attractive to today’s students while also continuing in our commitment to being a good steward for our environment.”

UMF has been partnering with Trane, a leader in energy solutions, and is utilizing the Energy Savings Performance program to increase the energy efficiency of campus facilities and lower campus operating costs.

The project will span an 18-month time frame and is expected to be completed by August of 2024, according to Director of Facilities Management Keenan Farwell. The project will include upgrades installing high-efficiency heat pumps, LED lighting, heating control systems and plumbing. Rooftop heating, ventilation and air conditioning [HVAC] units will also be upgraded, but the units are not expected to arrive until September.

“We’ve had some long lead items, but we’ve known about those items from the beginning of the projects,” Farwell said in an interview. “We’ve kind of scheduled that around some of those longer times.”

According to Farwell, the delays in shipping in the wake of COVID-19 has increased the estimated time of projects like these by about six months. At the time of the interview Thursday, Aug. 10, Farwell said most of the upgrades had been completed.


“We’re really just at a mechanical point that we’ll continue to upgrade the spaces that we can’t get into during the school year,” he said.

UMF will also be adding a second biomass boiler to the Biomass Plant located on campus. The second boiler will be used to heat campus hot water during the warmer months in late spring, summer and early fall. The intent with the second boiler will be to supplement Farmington’s current biomass boiler that provides heat to buildings throughout campus.

“We can’t run our large biomass boiler during the summer months,” Farwell stated. “It overheats too fast. It’s too much heat basically, so this allows us to burn biomass year round.”

UMF’s biomass plant began operation in 2016, and replaced 95% of the heating oil the university previously needed and reduced carbon emissions by at least 3,000 tons a year. Both units will continue to use locally sourced Maine wood chips in support of the local economy. The second boiler is expected to be installed and operational by the beginning of October, Farwell said.

With the campus upgrades, the total cost is estimated at $11 million, which is being paid for through a 20-year bank loan that Farwell says will be paid yearly using the operational budget savings these projects will create.

“It’s expected to pay itself back over 20 years,” Farwell said. “The savings in itself will make all the payments throughout.”


Additional significant campus improvements will include the renovation of UMF Mallett and Purington, two of Farmington’s historical and much-loved residence halls. Submitted Photo

Rounding out the campus upgrades will be work that is being done to Mallett and Purington halls, two of Farmington’s historical residence halls. According to Farwell, the project will bring these two buildings into compliance with the federal American with Disabilities Act [ADA] and better meet residential student needs.

Changes will include ramps and limited access elevators on the first three floors of the buildings, as well as converting the multiuser bathrooms into single user bathrooms.

“Our students really are asking for single user bathrooms,” Farwell said. “We’ve heard them and we’re moving forward with a full renovation of the space to create single user restrooms.”

After this renovation, five of the seven residential halls will have single user restrooms with Lockwood and Dakin halls still having multiuser restrooms. Those will be the next two that will have their restrooms upgrade to single user, Farwell stated.

Funding for this year-long residence hall project, which is estimated at $5.4 million, was obtained through the public infrastructure investment secured by UMS with the support of Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature.

“Our thanks to Governor Mills, the Maine Legislature and the University of Maine System for their continued support and to our facility staff who are working hard to make this all possible,” McDonnell said.

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