Proj Overview

Project Overview

Portland, Maine, is frequently cited as one of the top ten livable cities in the United States. As enrollment has blossomed at the University of Southern Maine (USM), they needed additional housing for students to live in. The newly constructed Portland Commons Residence Hall, designed with the imperatives of sustainability and accessibility in mind, is a cornerstone of USM's master plan to attract and retain highly qualified students and faculty. 

In keeping with the city's vibe, the new construction will provide sustainable, beautiful, and affordable student housing for 580 students. The new Portland Commons will offer an attractive addition to the Southeast campus. Portland Commons is situated at the corner of Durham and Bedford Streets, adding an aesthetically pleasing cornerstone to the campus gateway. The new Residence Hall broke ground in the spring of 2021 and welcomed students for the Fall semester of 2023. 

Strescon Limited manufactured 180,045 SF of 8-inch hollowcore plank and 21,515 SF of precast concrete solid slabs for the $100 M project. The precast concrete flooring system was installed from October 2021 through August 2022. Utilizing precast concrete for the project contributed to sustainability efforts due to its advantageous thermal mass properties, which effectively regulate interior temperatures and mitigate the impact of extreme weather conditions. Additional advantages were gained by selecting a precast concrete flooring system, including sound insulation - a necessity in the high-traffic residence hall. 

The new Hall features four wings - two reaching five stories in height and two reaching eight stories in height - that form a parallelogram that encloses a half-acre semi-private residential courtyard. A long horizontal canopy will lead pedestrians from the crosswalk and the corner of the new Residential Quad along Bedford Street to the Hall's entrance. 

Portland Commons offers a mix of single-occupancy rooms, studio apartments, and larger apartments with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. The Hall will be home to undergraduate students in their second, third, or fourth year, as well as USM graduate students and Law students. 

Sustainability Highlights 

The new residence hall epitomizes USM's sustainability goals: embracing renewable low-carbon building technologies, waste diversion, and strategies to maintain healthy living and working spaces. Designed to meet the Passive House sustainability standards, the buildings are wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glass, with views of the peninsula skyline and Back Cove. The new residence hall is the second-largest passive house building at a University in the United States, and the largest in the Northeast. The 218,000 SF Portland Commons Residence Hall was designed to use 50% less energy than a comparable structure built to code, resulting in enormous cost-saving and environmental benefits during the structure's lifetime. 


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Project Team


University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME

PCI-Certified Precast Concrete Producer:

Strescon Limited, Saint John NB Canada


Elkus and Manfredi, Boston, MA


SMRT Architects and Engineers, Portland, ME

General Contractor:

PC Construction, Portland, ME

Key Project Attributes

  • Largest passive house building at a University in the Northeast
  • Sustainable, beautiful, and affordable housing for 580 students
  • Designed to use 50% less energy than a comparable structure built to code

Project/Precast Scope

  • 180,045 SF of 8-inch hollowcore plank
  •  21,515 SF of precast concrete solid slabs