"The process of designing an LPOE is a process-driven exercise focusing on moving vehicles from one point to another," says Robert Siegel, AIA, principal of New York–based Robert Siegel Architects. In addition, he says, "They’re very dynamic. CBP is tasked with responding to a variety of threats so the facilities have to be flexible in concept, design, and detail so that they can adapt without compromising security or diminishing the design intent of the building."

To design a new port in Calais, Siegel and project manager Eduardo Ramos, Intl. Assoc. AIA, hit the road, visiting 20 crossings along the northern border. Struck by the visual openness between Canada and the U.S., Siegel and Ramos focused on translating that into a new 106,000-square-foot port on a 50.3-acre site in an industrial district south of downtown Calais.

One main challenge was to protect the city of Calais’ aquifer and potable-water supply, so the site was graded to slope away from the aquifer. Several bioswales and retention ponds also were installed to manage stormwater and pavement runoff. The swales treat and filter over 90 percent of runoff from impervious surfaces on site, and the project’s best-management practices are capable of removing 80 percent of the runoff’s total suspended solids. The bioswales also serve as defensive barriers for the facility.

Working with the site’s natural topography, the team used a cut-and-fill strategy to reduce the amount of material brought in, and excavated glacially deposited granite for reuse. Playing with massing, the new facility, which opened in November 2009, is bifurcated into two volumes for noncommercial and commercial traffic, the design of which draws inspiration from boulders found in the landscape. The structures are linked by a glazed passageway, and two courtyards provide areas of respite for officers where granite boulders collected from the site take on new life as a dramatic visual element. The spaces also provide the ventilation system with fresh air uncontaminated by the exhaust fumes from traffic in front of the building. "The courtyard [at the officers’ entryway] is one of the most dramatic spaces of the site, but it’s also one of the most peaceful," Ramos says.

From afar, the structure looks like stone, but its façade is actually an expanded aluminum-mesh screen composed of 10-foot-tall-by-40-inch-wide panels folded around an aluminum frame that was easier on the project budget, uses less materials, helps filter daylight, and provides unobstructed sight lines for CBP officers while obscuring views into the structure to maintain privacy. Other elements contributing to the facility’s LEED Gold certification include white cool roofs; underground parking for officers, which reduces the site’s paved area, and, in turn, its heat-island effect; low-VOC and recycled materials in the interiors; water-efficient fixtures in the bathrooms and kitchens that reduce potable-water consumption by more than 40 percent over conventional plumbing; and efficient lighting fixtures. According to Robert Siegel Architects’ LEED documentation, the port saves 17.9 percent total energy using the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 Appendix G methodology.