USDA awards Portland Museum of Art in Maine a US$300,000 Community Wood Innovations Grant; funding supports PMA Blueprint project for its innovative mass-timber campus expansion and unification project designed by Lever Architecture

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PORTLAND, Maine , June 19, 2023 (press release) –

The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) is proud to announce it has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture in support of The PMA Blueprint: Building a Landmark for the Future. The Wood Innovations Funding Opportunity Program seeks to advance the use of wood as a sustainable building material while simultaneously supporting rural communities and their economies. This support will play a pivotal role in the PMA’s campus unification and expansion designed by LEVER Architecture. 

The PMA Blueprint is among 123 projects awarded a Community Wood Grants and Wood Innovations Grant for its innovative mass-timber campus expansion and unification project. Anchored by a new museum building at 142 Free Street, The PMA Blueprint is a bold vision for Portland, Maine and the northeast, defined by the museum’s values of courage, equity, service, sustainability, and trust. Designed by LEVER Architecture, this transformation of the PMA campus includes open and free community space, new galleries, classrooms, makers spaces, and much more. The PMA’s commitment to sustainability and its Art for All mission has led to the championing of innovative, climate-safe materials and processes which will not only transform the landscape of Portland, but has the opportunity to spark new mass timber industries in Maine and revitalize rural and urban economies alike. 

The USDA Wood Innovations Funding Opportunity Program supports projects across the country that are pushing boundaries in the use of wood as a construction material, an energy source, and in manufacturing and processing wood products. This funding seeks to expand innovative uses of wood to create more sustainable and climate-friendly buildings and energy systems throughout the country.  The projects supported by this grant will help to reduce pollution, conserve natural resources, and protect vulnerable populations who are most likely to be affected by climate change. The PMA Blueprint is among three awardees in the state, including the Jesup Memorial Library expansion in Bar Harbor and Tanbark Molded Fiber Products, a wood fiber packaging startup in Saco. Combined, these projects represent a $900,000 investment in Maine’s wood and timber economy. 

Mass timber construction meets the highest standards of climate-safe design because of its low carbon footprint, integration with sustainable forestry practices, and ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. While traditional building materials release carbon back into the atmosphere through decomposition or burning, mass timber retains carbon within the building, reducing its environmental impact significantly. In fact, University of Washington researchers report that mass timber construction paired with sustainably managed forests present a 26.5% reduction in global warming potential. Given that buildings and construction contribute 40% of global carbon emissions annually, the potential to reduce the climate impact of this industry is critical. 

LEVER Architecture is a leading design firm known for their use of sustainably sourced wood and mass timber construction. LEVER has spearheaded climate safe building design in projects such as the Adidas North American Headquarters expansion, Meyer Memorial Trust, and The Nature Conservancy Headquarters, all in Oregon. While the Pacific Northwest has established a mass timber economy, Maine has yet to tap into this huge economic potential, despite support from policymakers, forestry advocates, Indigenous leaders, and more. This project joins the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and Bowdoin College Barry Mills Hall and John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies to spark action toward a mass timber industry in Maine, the country’s most forested state. On Friday, June 30th, the PMA will host a discussion with panelists from Katahdin Woods and Waters to speak about the monument and its design process. This generous support from the USDA Wood Innovations Grant is critical to the success of The PMA Blueprint and will be integral in Maine’s future as a leader in climate safe design. 


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