Portsmouth Abbey dedicates new 'green' dorm


PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth Abbey School’s new boys’ residential house, St. Martin’s, was dedicated earlier this yea, before the entire school community and Board of Regents. The dedication ceremonies took place outside the 28,477-square-foot building overlooking Narragansett Bay and an expanse of lawn on the west side of campus.

Headmaster Dr. James DeVecchi noted that the new residential house "is a significant achievement for Portsmouth Abbey.  It is a well-planned structure on a magnificent piece of property and is a key element in our vision for the future of our school."  The completion of St. Martin’s caps the school’s Strategic Plan goals for both student and, with the recent acquisition of properties adjacent to campus on Cory’s Lane, faculty housing.

The state-of-the-art stone and cedar building houses 30 male fifth and sixth form boarding students, three faculty residences, and 14 day student lockers in a 226-square-foot day student lounge. The building also features a 309-square-foot computer/study room and dorm-wide wireless computer network access. The two-story common room opens onto a terrace, and student laundry service and housekeeping offices are housed on the basement level

In keeping with the school’s commitment to conservation and renewable energy, the dorm has been built with a wide range of "green" systems and features, including:  certified wood and low-VOC construction materials; solar panels to provide domestic hot water; a high-efficiency, low-VOC icynene insulation system; aluminum-clad wood windows with insulating low-E-glass; flooring materials from renewable and recycled sources; Energy Star-rated appliances; motion-sensing lighting control; high-efficiency lighting; high-efficiency, low-emissions boilers; low-flow toilets, touchless faucets; and waterless urinals.

In addition, plastic and paper recycling stations are located throughout the building, and filtered water refilling stations are on each floor to reduce the use of disposable plastic water bottles.  Three energy recover ventilators are used to recover the heat from the exhausted air and use it to heat the fresh air coming into the building.

St. Martin’s was constructed by Advanced Building Concepts, of Middletown.

Dr. DeVecchi thanked all those responsible for bringing the new building to fruition:  The primary donors to the project; the Korean families who supported the effort through The Korea Fund; ARC and Advanced Building Concepts; Seraphin DaPonte P ’08, ’10 and Steve Cotta ’83, P’12, ’15 for the landscaping of the grounds surrounding the building; Director of Operations Paul Jestings and his team for overseeing the project; and the monastic community, for allowing the project to move forward.

Gabe Miller ’13, a prefect in St. Martin’s, spoke on behalf of the students, saying how grateful the boys are for the opportunity to spend their final years at the Abbey in the new dorm.

“What makes this dorm phenomenal is that it’s a place every student has already enjoyed, from the common room to the field between St. Martin’s and St. Brigid’s.  It is giving us an opportunity for all students, boarding and day, to bond and grow closer as a school and a community.”

Abbot Matthew Stark, whose baptismal name is Martin, conducted the blessing of the new building.

The building of St. Martin’s, the construction for which was begun in March of 2011, is part of the School's Strategic Plan, which, at the direction of the monastic community, is to include renewable energy projects whenever possible.  In addition to operating the state's first commercial-grade wind turbine, the campus is home to a self-sufficient solar house, two new Blu Homes for faculty housing, an energy-efficient girls' dormitory (St. Brigid’s), two electric maintenance vehicles, a "tray-less" dining hall, a composting program, a community garden, and a partnership with Newport Biodiesel (the School provides the waste cooking oil used by its dining services to Newport Biodiesel for clean-burning alternative fuel).


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.