Similar to the LPOE in Massena, managing natural light is a main focus at the 350,000-gross-square-foot Mariposa LPOE in Nogales. Designed by Phoenix-based Jones Studio, the overhaul of the state’s largest port—a multiphase project aiming for completion in 2014—comprises 28 buildings on 53 acres. The facility as a whole is aiming for LEED Platinum certification.

The port’s southwestern locale lends itself to daylit spaces and outdoor circulation. On many of the buildings, glazed glass and shading structures filter sunlight while insulated concrete walls that require low to zero maintenance and insulated roofs help regulate interior temperatures. Also providing shade on the south-facing entry to the primary inspection areas are 15-foot-tall perforated steel panels ranging in width from 7 to 10 feet. Powdercoated in red, white, and blue, the panels are an abstracted American flag and guide drivers to the appropriate lanes. They also serve a second purpose: Attached to trusses underneath the inspection canopies, they obscure a catwalk from which CBP officers patrol the area 17 feet above the ground. "We spent a great deal of time with the main canopies to make them a memorable experience in the way they’re colored, how they’re presented, how they filter sunlight and provide shade, and how skylights can let light come down while lighting the colors," says Brian Farling, project architect at Jones Studio.

Harnessing solar power has been more complicated. "CBP is not fond of ground-mounted photovoltaics because it can obstruct sight lines, and [the CBP is also] not fond of putting a lot of penetrations into the buildings’ roofs, because of security concerns," says Melissa Farling, AIA, project manager at Jones Studio. Working with an eye to these concerns, the project will feature two photovoltaic installations that will produce a combined 1MW of power. While the total number of panels is still to be determined, they will be split so that 75 percent of them will be installed on a canopy covering parking spaces and the remaining 25 percent will be on top of the main commercial dock. The panels will be built into the canopy and building frame to eliminate rooftop penetrations, and the power they produce will be fed back in to the grid, rather than stored in batteries on site. Focusing on baseline estimates calculated through Energy Star Target Finder, the team is aiming for a 60 percent reduction in overall energy use.

Playing off its desert locale, the site references the concept of an oasis with the buildings oriented around a center axis. To the east of the center is a 1,000-foot-long building and to the west is an 800-foot-long building. In the middle is a lush garden of native plants. From there, the remaining structures on site are oriented to provide a secure perimeter.

The concept of an oasis also hinges on the presence of water. Outside of the main garden, the site features an extensive landscaping plan to address this. Native species that were planted are receptive to the desert climate and all of the roofs harvest rainwater. In the outlying buildings, water is collected and reused in the surrounding gardens. On the roofs of the two main interior buildings and the inspection canopies, drainage channels collect water and send it to an underground storage tank that can store up to 1 million gallons. From there, the water is redirected to irrigation pumps and a small fountain in one of the interiors. A solar hot-water system services all of the restrooms.

Above all other goals, however, efficiency remained priority number one. "Upgrading this facility cuts down on the massive amount of exhaust fumes from trucks waiting to be processed. The main goal is to process vehicles faster and keep them moving so that the amount of time spent waiting goes from hours to minutes," Brian Farling says. "One of the major challenges was balancing the priorities of CBP and the people that work there with the aspirations of the GSA and its Design Excellence Program. To be frank, the people working there don’t care how sustainable we are. Their priority lies in doing their job, staying safe, and protecting everyone that comes through the port," he says. "The biggest challenge was balancing security with the agenda of making a sustainable facility."