Launch Slideshow

The new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Orlando, designed by Leo A Daly, keeps a low profile but lets in abundant natural light.

Building a Model of Good Citizenship

Leo A Daly shows that bureaucracy can be beautiful as well as sustainable in Orlando, Fla.

Building a Model of Good Citizenship

Leo A Daly shows that bureaucracy can be beautiful as well as sustainable in Orlando, Fla.

  • The new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Orlando, designed by Leo A Daly, keeps a low profile but lets in abundant natural light.

    http://www.ecobuildingpulse.com/Images/tmpBD4%2Etmp_tcm131-404083.jpg

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    The new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Orlando, designed by Leo A Daly, keeps a low profile but lets in abundant natural light.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    The new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) building in Orlando, designed by Leo A Daly, keeps a low profile but lets in abundant natural light.

  • This project gave us the opportunity to see what different green aspects worked best for a customer-service facility, such as the natural materials and daylighting, says Jennifer Killeen of USCIS. Abundant windows on the two-story structure flood the interior areas with natural light.

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    This project gave us the opportunity to see what different green aspects worked best for a customer-service facility, such as the natural materials and daylighting, says Jennifer Killeen of USCIS. Abundant windows on the two-story structure flood the interior areas with natural light.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    ‘‘This project gave us the opportunity to see what different green aspects worked best for a customer-service facility, such as the natural materials and daylighting,’’ says Jennifer Killeen of the USCIS. Abundant windows on the two-story structure flood the interior areas with natural light.

  • The development team proposed a site that was adjacent to a wetlands preserve but also near major roads, which satisfied USCISs requirements for an accessible-yet-secluded location. The building is separated from the edge of the site by 30 feet of paving that forms a runoff buffer zone to the protected wetland.

    http://www.ecobuildingpulse.com/Images/tmpBD6%2Etmp_tcm131-404093.jpg

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    The development team proposed a site that was adjacent to a wetlands preserve but also near major roads, which satisfied USCISs requirements for an accessible-yet-secluded location. The building is separated from the edge of the site by 30 feet of paving that forms a runoff buffer zone to the protected wetland.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    The development team proposed a site that was adjacent to a wetlands preserve but also near major roads, which satisfied USCIS’s requirements for an accessible-yet-secluded location. The building is separated from the edge of the site by 30 feet of paving that forms a runoff buffer zone to the protected wetland.

  • A bold clay masonry wall defines the entrance to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) building, and is a reference to the Spanish Colonial architectural heritage of the Orlando area.

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    A bold clay masonry wall defines the entrance to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) building, and is a reference to the Spanish Colonial architectural heritage of the Orlando area.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    A bold clay masonry wall defines the entrance to the USCIS building, and is a reference to the Spanish Colonial architectural heritage of the Orlando area.

  • The butterfly roof, which shades the southern exposure, helps the structure read as two interconnected elements instead of one big building.

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    The butterfly roof, which shades the southern exposure, helps the structure read as two interconnected elements instead of one big building.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    The butterfly roof, which shades the southern exposure, helps the structure read as two interconnected elements instead of one big building.

  • The USCIS entry way was designed to be open and welcoming.

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    The USCIS entry way was designed to be open and welcoming.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    The USCIS entryway was designed to be open and welcoming.

  • In interior areas, Solatube modules augment natural light levels.

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    In interior areas, Solatube modules augment natural light levels.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    In interior areas, Solatube modules augment natural light levels.

  • Inside the USCIS building in Orlando, natural light floods public spaces such as the visitor waiting room.

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    Inside the USCIS building in Orlando, natural light floods public spaces such as the visitor waiting room.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    Inside the USCIS building in Orlando, natural light floods public spaces such as the visitor waiting room.

  • Public waiting areas are purposefully bright and airy.

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    Public waiting areas are purposefully bright and airy.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    Public waiting areas are purposefully bright and airy.

  • The overall design of the building is meant to create a more approachable, less monolithic structure.

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    The overall design of the building is meant to create a more approachable, less monolithic structure.

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    Robin Hill Photography

    The overall design of the building is meant to create a more approachable, less monolithic structure.

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    Robin Hill Photography

The grim halls of Ellis Island may be part of American history, but it’s not as if recent immigrants have been greeted with the warmest of welcomes. In many of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service centers, holding cells for deportees were in the same complex as the interview booths for immigrants. But the two functions were decoupled in 2003, creating a new bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This development also paved the way for new, customer-oriented centers, complete with self-service kiosks and expansive waiting areas. One of the first of the new USCIS centers, in Orlando, Fla., shows that it is possible to create a 43,000-square-foot space that is stylish, comfortable, and sustainable—as well as capable of withstanding the wear-and-tear of 300 visitors per day.

“This was a very different type of building for us—no more gray walls and blue carpet,” says Jennifer Killeen, facilities project manager at USCIS. “We wanted to create a facility that was very welcoming.”

The development team included architecture firm Leo A Daly, which had experience designing government buildings as well as significant LEED chops (14 certified and 48 registered projects, to date). The U.S. General Services Administration mandates that new federal buildings have LEED Silver certification as a goal, and encourages projects to aim higher; the building Leo A Daly designed received LEED Gold. “This project gave us the opportunity to see what different green aspects worked best for a customer-service facility, such as the natural materials and the natural lighting,” says Killeen. “We’ve been inspired to incorporate similar solutions in other facilities.”

“It was a real pleasure to work with [Leo A Daly], and the person who handled the documentation and certification for LEED was in-house, which really benefited us as an agency,” Killeen continues. “We’d run an idea by them and they were able to process it much more quickly, and we got certified more quickly.”

The development team proposed a site that was adjacent to a wetlands preserve but near major roads, which satisfied USCIS’s requirements for an accessible yet secluded location. The site is adjacent to a protected wetland, so the architects placed 30 feet of paving between the building and the edge of the site to form a runoff buffer zone.

The most critical design decision that the architects made was to optimize natural lighting—which would create a welcoming feeling as well as boost the project’s LEED score. In preparation for its new centers, USCIS had created a building template, which specified the different functions and spaces. But the layout was rather monolithic, with a row of offices that wrapped around the waiting area. The team at Leo A Daly essentially “unwrapped” that block of offices, creating a wing that juts out on one end. The waiting area now has a view of the outdoors that overlooks a courtyard planted with palms.

“The challenge was with the solar exposure, because with all the sunlight hitting the building there were pretty significant heat loads,” says project architect James Leach. “So we elongated the building to increase the north and south exposures. But the best thing we did was to peel open a section to create a nice daylit lobby, since that’s where the clients spend a majority of their time, waiting for their appointments.”

To shield the spaces from direct sunlight, the team added a butterfly roof with a wide overhang. It gives a commanding presence to what could have easily been a dull, utilitarian building. Inside, every space, even those without windows, has natural lighting: There are Solatube tubular daylighting modules throughout the space, at least one in every interior office, and a bank of offices near the center has two north-facing roof monitors, commonly used in factories, to let in a view of the sky as well as light.

The interior finishes also were chosen with an eye towards their aesthetic friendliness, as well as their eco-friendliness. Exposed concrete floors and steel framing have an elemental beauty and require no extra finishes. In the lobby, a ceiling of FSC-certified Douglas fir warms up the otherwise cold palette of concrete, steel, and glass. In the lobby’s waiting area, the team experimented with something new for a government building: a cork floor. “We were looking for something that had sound-control properties similar to carpet, but was also extremely durable and easy to clean,” says interior designer Nancy Novak of Leo A Daly. The USCIS’s Killeen testifies that after two years, the cork has held up extremely well.

Other thoughtful touches include the use of deep red as an accent color: Many of the immigrants to this part of the country are Hispanic and red is a welcoming color in many Latino cultures. In addition, a bold clay masonry wall that defines the entrance to the building is a reference to the Spanish Colonial architectural heritage of the Orlando area. Leo A Daly staff also came up with the idea of creating a large “mural” out of wood—FSC-certified, of course—from trees native to each of the six populated continents. The piece provides a rich textural element in the waiting area while beautifully underscoring the process of immigration. “Everyone on the team talked about how they wanted the experience to be memorable for people who were coming here to become citizens,” Novak says. “We wanted to create a building that had some sense of value and dignity, a building that would represent the nation well.”

Lydia Lee writes about architecture and sustainability from Menlo Park, Calif.


Green team

Architect, civil engineer, electrical engineer, interior designer, mechanical engineer, structural engineer: Nancy Novak, Michael Brady, Jessica Errett, Mike Ginsburg, Andrew Johnson, Kelly Carman, Elizabeth Hunter, Leo A Daly, leoadaly.com

Client/owner: Jennifer Killeen, GSA, gsa.gov

General contractor: W.G. Mills, wgmills.com

Geotechnical engineer: Nodarse & Associates, nodarse.com

Landscape architect: Anderson Lesniak, andersonlesniak.net

Sustainability coordinator: Chris Rupert, Leo A Daly

 

Materials and Sources

Carpet: Constantine Commercial, constantine-carpet.com

Ceilings: Armstrong, armstrong.com

Cladding: Alucobond, alucobondusa.com

Curtainwalls: United States Aluminum, usalum.com

Flooring: poured-in-place concrete; Unicork, Tomkt.com

Glass: PPG Industries, ppg.com

HVAC: Trane, trane.com

Lighting control systems: SESCO Lighting, sescolighting.com

Lighting: Solatube International, solatube.com

Masonry, concrete, and stone: Sandkuhl Clay Works, sandkuhl.com

Millwork: Environ Biocomposites, environbiocomposites.com

Roofing: Firestone Building Products, firestonebpco.com