Beechland Road Early Learning Center


A daycare facility wants to have a child-friendly feel to it. Words that come to mind when envisioning daycare are safe, inviting, nurturing, friendly. These attributes, when present, make a daycare facility successful. This is especially true when an existing building undergoes a child-friendly daycare conversion. The Jackson Laboratory’s Beechland Road Early Learning Center project is a renovation of a plumbing supply warehouse and showroom. None of those child-friendly words were applicable to the existing building. The transformation that occurred was the result of dedication and teamwork on the part of Jackson Laboratory, the owner; Downeast Family Y, the manager; E L Shea, the contractor; and the design team led by Sealander Architects.


Downeast Family YMCA
Ellsworth, ME

The Jackson Lab decided to procure the project using a local design-build team to accelerate a schedule facing a late start to the project, relative to the anticipated opening date. A third-party owner’s representative joined the team to increase management capacity. On top of this, the Y was able to devote a considerable amount of time through the design process to advise on the design. The confluence of owner representation, design-build, and fast decision making made a complex project go quickly and smoothly.

A child-friendly daycare conversion must meet the basics: excellent air quality, enough classroom space for each child, sanitary conditions, and security. These factors can be achieved by following building and health codes. A child-friendly daycare conversion must then also consider other qualities: an indoor play space; access to outdoor views and daylight; materials and finishes that are safe and easy to clean.

As with all projects, balancing cost and quality was an issue. The design-build process was especially helpful here. The construction industry is fraught with a basic disconnect: contractors have access to pricing, and designers do not. On this project, the design-side members could offer alternative material and system suggestions and the build-side members could quickly provide pricing feedback.

What is the most important take-away for doing a child-friendly daycare conversion? Daycare facilities are almost like healthcare facilities. Safety and security are paramount, and do not come without a price. Go into a project with eyes wide open about the quality level that must be achieved, and paid for.