Colby’s Leadership in Sustainability Reflected in Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center

Gift by Trustee Alexander Buck Jr. ’78 and Anne Buck enables Colby to pursue SITES Silver certification 

In August 2020 Colby opened its new 350,000-square-foot Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center. The state-of-the-art building is the most advanced and comprehensive NCAA D-III facility in the country, and one in a series of major investments by the College to create and support best-in-class programs and initiatives. The sustainability-conscious center is receiving national recognition by media including Forbes and Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal

Thanks to a generous gift from Trustee Alexander “Sandy” Buck Jr. ’78 and Anne “Sissy” Buck, the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center project is able to pursue SITES Silver certification for sustainable landscapes and ecosystem restoration. The Sustainable SITES Initiative is a program that promotes sustainable landscape projects that enhance ecosystem services, provide wildlife habitat, conserve water, reduce energy consumption, and promote outdoor physical activity. 

Twenty-five acres surrounding the building feature a mix of lowland and upland meadows, a natural grass recreation field, and restored soils. Visible vegetated basins in the lowland meadows with native plants allow building roof runoff and the 90th-percentile rainfall to be managed onsite, replicating natural site hydrology processes and reducing ecological impacts. The upland native meadows will support pollinators and greater biodiversity, provide habitat, and reduce irrigation and mowing. The existing soil on the site was amended and restored to improve quality, drainage and compaction, and reused throughout the site for the meadows. Mown paths provide visual access to the vegetated basins, and allow movement throughout the site, supporting physical activity and wellness in nature. 

Colby is consistently recognized for its leadership in sustainability and environmental education, most recently making the top 15 of Princeton Review’s Top 50 Green Colleges ranking. The College has been carbon neutral since 2013 and is home to a nine-acre solar field implemented in 2017. Academic programs in environmental studies, student-led initiatives, and research and teaching supported by Buck Lab for Climate and Environment also advance the College’s strategies toward creating a climate-friendly campus.

Sandy Buck, president of the Portland-based Horizon Foundation, and wife Sissy, have long been committed to environmental work at Colby and in Maine. In 2019 Maine Governor Janet Mills appointed Buck to the Maine Climate Council, a group of scientists, industry leaders, bipartisan local and state officials, and engaged citizens to develop a plan to put Maine on a trajectory to reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and at least 80 percent by 2050. 

In addition to pursuing SITES Silver certification, the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreations Center is also tracking toward a LEED Gold certification—rare in large-scale sports facilities. Key sustainability components in the new center include optimizing natural resources (e.g. daylight harvesting), minimizing embodied carbon, and reducing energy and water use as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

“These are important milestones that reflect our longstanding commitment to environmentally responsible development and operations,” said Mina Amundsen, assistant vice president for facilities and campus planning. “We are definitely raising the bar for both our building and campus landscape standards with the broader vision of a campus that actively supports academic programs and research in sustainability.”

Colby also received SITES certification in 2018 for the College’s new competition and practice fields, marking the first SITES certification for any institution of higher education in New England. The fields complex received SITES certification for including sustainability features such as a design for storm water to filter through basins beneath the fields to slow and clean runoff. Additionally, an irrigation system conserves water by automatically adjusting to precipitation and evaporation rates with the use of rain and soil sensors.

The gift from the Bucks is among many to the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center, including the previously announced gifts from Joe Boulos ’68, LL.D. ’09 and Sheri Boulos, Jim Crook ’78, P’11 and Andrea Crook P’11, and Marieke Rothschild P’16 and Jeff Rothschild P’16