The design of the new US Land Port of Entry in Van Buren, Maime fuses an abstraction of the cultural and landscape context with concepts essential to port operations: surveillance and camouflage. Located in the St. John River valley, an area profoundly influenced by its roots in the Acadian culture, this heritage is made visible in Van Buren’s original town plat of long narrow plots oriented toward the river. 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 the patterned repetition of joints, columns and mullions to provide the officers with both concealment and direct visual site surveillance. To provide maximum visual surveillance, the main work areas are largely clad in glass. To balance the need to see out while mitigating the nighttime “fishbowl” effect, a silk-screened pattern on the glass provides both camouflage and glare protection.
The building envelope is conceived as a taut wrapper of the simple building form. A flush condition between the glass and the metal cladding creates a surface continuity, reinforcing the sleek building form while also blurring the difference between the silk-screened glass and metal. Warm colored walls add a glow to the interior spaces, enhancing visitors’ passage through the port while offering the officers a warm work environment in a climate that is often cold and hostile.
The site is long and linear, over 2000’ long, following the bluff line of the St John River. Abstracting the Acadian land divisions and regional agrarian landforms, the site design consists of a series of low, linear mounds and rows of trees perpendicular to the river. The site simultaneously creates a bio-swale system for filtering water and a cohesive experience of the site. Similar to the building’s patterning, the site’s rhythmic elements blur the distinction between secured and unsecured areas. The site circulation is a dominant port design factor, responding to traffic movements and site configuration. Improved traffic flow, clear pedestrian movement, increased commercial vehicle capability, and the unique needs of snowmobile traffic are accommodated safely and efficiently.
Ports have rigorous operational and security demands. Officers are provided a panoramic view of the secure area from their primary workspace, including vehicles entering the site from the bridge and those exiting the secured perimeter. Despite the increased port size, regional staffing availability demands that the design provide operational security with minimal onsite staff. Enhanced visual surveillance allows the port to be manned by as few as two officers during overnight shifts. Comfort and safety in the heavy snow and icy conditions of northern Maine required that the building and canopy configuration provide shelter as officers move about the site. The “Z” form supports port operations and creates a coherent and sleek configuration while protecting officers from wind, sleet and snow.
The port’s sustainable design focuses on site water filtration and energy consumption. The site’s water runoff will be filtered before reaching the St. John River. The port’s energy design reduces the standard port energy consumption by 48%. The project is awaitingapproval of LEED Gold Certification. Site water is collected by a system of minor swales and landforms that promote onsite infiltration while filtering runoff into a stone-lined major swale running along the bluff edge of the site. Planted areas within the major swale act as check dams to slow water movement and increase onsite infiltration further. An underground sedimentation chamber day-lights into a small wet pond to be absorbed into the water table. A ground-coupled heat pump system uses heat transfer from subsurface soils for summer cooling and winter heating to reduce offsite energy resource demands. An evacuated tube solar system heats the port’s hot water. Outside air warmed in the back ventilated cavity of the metal panel provides tempered ventilated air to further reduce the heating load. The generator uses bio-diesel fuel.
THE TEAM COLLABORATION STORY The US Land Port of Entry in Van Buren, Maine was delivered on a Bridging Design/Build model through the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence Program. Snow Kreilich Architects was selected as the Design Architect. The design team included Coen+Partners, Meyer Borgman and Johnson, Jacobs Engineering, Sebesta Blomberg and Global Defense Solutions. The Snow Kreilich Architects team carried the project through 35% design, the peer review process and the GSA commissioners review. They then produced a set of Bridging Documents that specified in detail the project design, in particular the exterior envelope. The GSA contracted with Snow Kreilich Architects for continuing design review role through the completion of documents and construction.
The Design/Build team, J & J Construction with Robert Siegel Architects were chosen to complete the documents and perform the construction of the port. Their team included Anastos Engineering Associates, Arup Engineers, Sasaki Associates Inc., Fire Risk Management, and Steven Winter Associates. Robert Siegel Architects and his team are the Architect and Engineers of Record for the project.
The project was unique in the collaboration required of the client, the design architect's team, the contractor and the architect of record's team. The client and design team were able to produce an approved design and complete bridging package, and Design Build team selection in just 8 months, meeting the ARRA deadline for the project. This required a spirit of collaborative decision-making and rigorously punctual reviews from both GSA and CBP. Robert Siegel Architects and Snow Kreilich Architects forged a collaborative process that allowed design team involvement throughout the production of design development documents, construction documents and construction. J and J Construction maintained a rigorous project delivery resulting in construction excellence, a high quality project delivered ahead of schedule. This successful collaboration provided the government with the best of design excellence combined with the best value and an accelerated project delivery.