The main authors of the Energy and water efficient border control station, Julie Snow and Matt Kreilich, were presented with a certificate to commemorate the project’s status as one of 15 Global Holcim Awards finalists in the previous competition. Since then, the implemented project has received much attention and has recently won two additional prizes which recognize the contextual, aesthetic, and social performance of the project.
AIA Minnesota Honor Award: The Look (and Feel) of Architecture
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota recognized the Energy and water efficient border control station in the recent “Honor Awards: The Look (and Feel) of Architecture” as a project offering a sense of both permanence and timelessness. In celebrating the architectural oeuvre of the American Midwest, the awards paid homage to exposed raw concrete, industrial spans of steel, and richly textured stone that speaks to a regional sensibility of humble craft and an unpretentious material honesty.
The AIA jury commended the project for its texture and tactile experience. The jury citation noted: “It’s really a landscape project-landscape and building have merged. The expert jury panel commended the material toughness of the project, and the way the patterning and the textures of the exterior create syncopation over the long spans.”
2014 GSA Design Awards celebrate contextual performance
In addition, the project was one of twenty winners of the US General Services Administration (GSA) 2014 Design Awards, selected from buildings designed for use by the American public service and administration. The 2014 GSA Design Awards focussed on the achievements of the structure in sustainable stormwater management, contextual and aesthetic impact, and provision of quality working conditions and public space.
How a blur the boundary between building and landscape
In spring 2008, snowmelt and heavy rain caused extensive flooding of the St. John River. In the town of Van Buren, Maine, where the river marks a natural boundary to Canada, floodwaters destroyed the US Land Port of Entry. Relocated to a long, linear site that parallels the river bluff, the new border station counts sustainable stormwater management among its accomplishments.
Research undertaken early in this project’s development uncovered that, historically, local potato farmers had shaped the earth into low mounds to divert water flow. By combining similar landforms with a stone-lined swale, today the land-port site channels rainfall and melted snow into a sedimentation chamber and wet pond. This process slows runoff and filters it prior to release into the St. John River. The rolling landforms also enhance site security, while blurring the distinction between border security and vernacular place.
Just as the land port’s site-performance features are camouflaged as agrarian landscape, so its 4,100m2 building blends with local forests. A repetitive pattern of joints and mullions characterizes the building’s glass-and-metal envelope: From outdoors, tonal variation in the aluminum panels and flush glazing partly conceals US Customs & Border Protection agents who survey the site from inside.
The security of border agents underpinned much decision making behind this design, and the building plan exemplifies the attention paid to safety. Divided into multiple volumes united by a skylight-punctuated canopy, the land port assumes a Z shape; the configuration allows officers the widest-possible sightlines from their primary stations, and the canopy protects them from poor weather during outdoor vehicle inspections. Optimizing work conditions was additionally important for this project, because regional staffing can be limited.
Measures were also taken to make the architecture feel welcoming to the public, such as finishing the interior with warm treatments and illuminating inspection spaces by skylight. Besides stormwater management, green strategies are represented by ground source-heat-pump and evacuated-solar-tube systems that contribute to a 48 percent reduction of energy consumption over the standard land port.See more
The Energy and water efficient border control station was completed in April 2013. The facility provides a new port of entry in Van Buren, ME, USA on the Canadian border, and meets the US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED Gold criteria.
The facility uses sustainable technology and design features to cut energy and utility costs. The sustainability features include: energy-efficient construction using insulated pre-cast concrete panels; a geothermal heating and cooling system with nearly fifty 400-foot-deep (120m) wells; radiant floor heating; a solar water heating system which provides hot water to building faucets; solar tubes which provide daylight to interior rooms; energy-efficient lighting (including LED); and a 1,250kW biodiesel generator which provides backup power in case of power outages.
The project was designed by Julie Snow Architects, who also created the port of entry facility in Warroad, MN, also to USGBC LEED Gold standard, as part of the 167 land ports of entry in the USA. The project created contracting opportunities and jobs in this region. The US General Services Administration (GSA) private sector partners included Julie Snow Architects, J & J Contractors, and Robert Siegel Architects. In addition, there were 27 Maine-based companies that contributed to the project.
“The St John River Valley is profoundly influenced by its roots in Acadian culture, a heritage visible in the original settlement of long narrow plots oriented toward the river,” stated Julie Snow Architects’ principal, Matthew Kreilich.
Forests still cover much of the area and provide another layer to the genesis of the design. As the repetition of trees in a forest provides camouflage, the building uses a patterned repetition of joints, columns and mullions to provide the officers with concealment and direct visual site surveillance. To provide maximum visual surveillance, the main work areas are largely clad in glass. A silk-screened pattern on the glass provides both camouflage and glare protection.
“Since the Van Buren Land Port of Entry is located on a remote site, proven and easily-maintained systems were critical to the port’s success. Passive strategies included natural ventilation, daylight harvesting, water-conserving fixtures, and low-VOC materials,” said Matthew Kreilich.
Cutting a virtual ribbon
The Van Buren Land Port of Entry was officially opened by US Senators Susan Collins, Angus King and Congressman Michael Michaud on September 25, 2013 and will be operated by the GSA and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). GSA and CBP worked with national and local firms to design this new facility that uses modern technology to enhance border security, speed the flow of commerce, and save energy. It was also announced at the official opening that the new facility had been upgraded from a Permit port to a Commercial port of entry, providing the region with a new full-service commercial screening station, which will support commercial vehicle traffic.
The new port of entry broke ground in June 2011 and replaces the previous Bridge Street location that was built in the 1960s and damaged in a 2008 flood. Situated at the “Crown of Maine,” the state’s northernmost station encompasses over 46,500 square feet (4,320 square meters) and is responsible for 160 miles (257 km) of international border with the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec.
Funded under the federal stimulus bill, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Van Buren’s project budget totaled USD 45,127,000. “Without question, this state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly facility will greatly benefit Maine and the nation for years to come,” said US Senator Angus King.
In addition to the Holcim Awards Bronze 2011 for North America, the Van Buren project was honored as a winner from the earliest stages with the GSA’s Design Awards recognizing the concept design in 2010. In 2011, Architect magazine selected the Van Buren Land Port of Entry for the Progressive Architecture awards.See more
The projects that received Holcim Awards Gold, Silver, or Bronze in each of the five regions of the world were automatically qualified to compete for the Global Holcim Awards 2012. The more extensive submission on the Energy and water efficient border control station for the global phase of the competition can be found here:
The Holcim Awards Bronze was awarded to Julie Snow Architects of Minneapolis for a border control station on the US frontier to Canada at Van Buren, Maine. The approach meets a range of stringent regulations for safety, operation and durability and yet is a highly aesthetic structure marking the national frontier.
A zero net energy goal and water saving targets, challenged by the remote location of the site and energy demand for 24-hour operation, are achieved through features such as a ground source heating and cooling, a solar wall to temper outside ventilation air, a ground-coupled heat pump, peaking bio-diesel boilers, LED lights, and lighting control systems to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The jury commended the design for successfully applying state-of-the-art features of sustainability in a government project with its regulatory implications.Read full media release – Holcim Awards 2011 for North America » pour en savoir plus (French) »
The jury commended the project for the adroit synthesis of design and technology, successfully applying state-of-the-art features of sustainability in a government project with its regulatory implications. The design is dignified, simple and elegant. Instead of a “noisy” appearance it is well integrated into the context and creates the maximum spatial quality out of the rather simple program of the border station.
This project has an explicit function as a border control station on the US frontier to Canada, thus needing to meet a range of stringent regulations for safety, operation and durability and yet provide a welcoming appearance to visitors. Efficiency demands an enhanced capacity for visual surveillance to enable as few as two officers to operate the station. Harsh weather conditions during winter require a strong canopy roof to provide shelter for exterior control operations.
Beyond the fulfillment of the technical requirements the project pursues a well-designed reconciliation with the landscape and regional cultural context, echoing the plot structure and verticality of the forests to develop the shape and aesthetically integrate the building.
The remote location of the site, combined with an unusually large energy demand is met with a net zero energy goal and a water saving concept, based on features such as a ground source heating and cooling, a solar wall to temper outside ventilation air, a ground-coupled heat pump, peaking bio-diesel boilers, LED lights, and lighting control systems to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Materials are selected for durability, appropriateness, recycled content and regional production. The palette is minimized for design continuity and efficiency in purchasing. Low-VOC, formaldehyde-free, non-allergenic products resistant to mold, mildew and fungi are selected. The exterior envelope consists of recycled aluminum, precast concrete and coated low-e insulated glass.Download project entry poster (PDF, 1.08 MB) »See more