Colby College’s sprawling athletics center outperforms even the harshest Maine winters

A squat, glass clad center at colby college
The south facade of the new Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center (HAARC) at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. (Jeremy Bitterman/Courtesy Sasaki, Hopkins Architects)

The Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center (HAARC) at Colby College in Waterville, Maine is a sprawling, 350,000-square-foot complex containing a multiuse field house with a 656-foot track, tennis courts, an ice arena, an Olympic-sized pool, a competition gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, squash courts, a strength and fitness center, multi-purpose studios, locker rooms, sports medicine facilities, and offices. In order to avoid the “big glass” or “big metal box” phenomenon that tends to come out of such massive programs, the design teams at Sasaki and London’s Hopkins Architects opted to create a “village of masses,” each with their own unique facade treatment. These treatments address both the needs of the activities within and connect the complex to the landscape and adjacent Neo-Georgian campus.

A two story atrium in a commons building
Glazing on the southern facade provides views of the campus from the building entrance and strength and fitness center above. (Jeremy Bitterman/Courtesy Sasaki, Hopkins Architects)

To combat the prevailing northwestern winds, brick, which ties into the existing campus architecture, wraps portions of the ice rink and the field house. Areas of glazing on the north, west, and eastern facades are protected by insulated translucent sandwich panels, which allow for daylighting in program areas that don’t typically incorporate natural light. These facades also incorporate a unique application of insulated metal panels. Sasaki and Hopkins, with input from Arup, Consigli, Total Wall Systems, and Kingspan, improved upon the standard metal panel installation method by developing a new way to capture the panels by custom extrusions—similar to the manner by which glazing is captured within a curtain wall system. This custom solution of captured insulated metal panels eliminated 25 tons of steel from the project, improved aesthetics, and reduced screw penetrations and thermal bridging, mitigating the risk of system compromise.

A long glass volume with translucent covering and a sign reading colby college
Insulated translucent sandwich panels allow for daylighting while protecting from harsh western sun (Jeremy Bitterman/Courtesy Sasaki, Hopkins Architects)
inside of an athletics center with glass walls
A total of 524 three-foot glass panels were used throughout the project (Matthew Arielly/Courtesy Sasaki, Hopkins Architects)
  • Design Architect
    Hopkins Architects
  • Executive Architect
    Sasaki
  • Structural & MEP Engineer
    ARUP
  • Sustainability Consultant
    Thornton Tomasetti
  • Location
    Waterville, Maine
  • Completion Date
    2020
  • Lighting Design
    HLB
  • Insulated Metal Panel
    Kingspan
  • Main Contractor
    Consigli Construction Company
  • Landscape Architect
    Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
  • Civil Engineer
    Sebago Technics

Expansive glazing on the primary, campus-facing facade optimizes the balance between envelope performance, daylighting, views, and health and wellness. The material allows for a visual connection to the campus while capitalizing upon the sunlight during Maine’s long, cold winters. The natatorium and strength and fitness center are protected by tall vertical panels of triple-pane glass. The height and weight of these panels called for a uniquely developed support shelf that anchors to the vertical mullions, with the support seat buried within the butt-glazed horizontal joints. This method also circumvents the use of horizontal mullions, which would have blocked downward airflow, increasing the likelihood of condensation in the warm, humid natatorium.

The verticality of the structural system combined with the triple-paned glazing impressively eliminates condensation, even in the winter climate that dips as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit. A system of interior automatic shades works in conjunction with fixed and operable louvers in the natatorium to account for glare, which can be very dangerous for swimmers if they are not visible from the surface.

Each facade element of the HAARC was optimized to provide not only a conducive, attractive asset to the Colby College campus, but also an enjoyable user experience for the thousands of students, faculty, and community members who will utilize the expansive facility. The design team was able to achieve a high-performance design that feels warm, light, and airy even on Maine’s coldest winters day.

a long flat glass complex against a sea of older brick buildings
The complex utilizes clusters of massing with varying facade treatments to break up the enormous form. (Jeremy Bitterman/Courtesy Sasaki, Hopkins Architects)