Like the completed facilities receiving GSA 2010 Design Awards, water factors heavily in the design of the LPOE in Van Buren, a project currently on the boards for Julie Snow Architects. The 43,500-square-foot facility, which is scheduled to start construction this spring, will replace a 40-year-old port damaged in a 2008 flood of the St. John River. The new facility will sit along the river’s bluff line, 20 feet above the flood plain. To address water runoff into the river, the design team manipulated the 2,000-foot-long waterfront property to employ a series of low mounts that direct water to a stone-lined swale, underground sedimentation chamber, and retention pond.

"We allowed the water condition to become a landscape feature," says Matthew Kreilich, AIA, design principal at Julie Snow Architects. "It’s a design opportunity. The swales and mounds create a texture and animate the landscape as you move through it while also filtering and directing water. And they provide security in that approaching vehicles can’t run off the road as they head into the site."

The length of the narrow site, sandwiched between the town of Van Buren and the bluff, drove the building’s "Z" form, which will provide the necessary hinge points for traffic flow and will address solar issues such as heat gain. "The biggest challenge was the location of the site, which runs parallel to Main Street in Van Buren," Kreilich notes. "There was a lot of sensitivity paid to how building here would affect the heart of downtown. … There’s a public park just below the port that residents needed to have access to and we were sensitive to how the port would change traffic flow into town."

Playing with the landscape in a different way, the architects designed a skin of aluminum and glass with a forest-camouflage-pattern silk screen that will provide privacy and glare control. Combined with repeating columns and mullions, the structure will mimic trees in a forest while maintaining sight lines and providing maximum surveillance opportunities.

When it comes to energy, like Warroad, Van Buren will incorporate a geothermal system combined with radiant heating. The final number and total depth of the wells is yet to be determined. Unlike Warroad, however, plans also include solar hot-water heaters and biodiesel boilers. "What’s interesting about Van Buren is there’s a lot of biofuel being produced in the region," Kreilich says. "We’re anticipating how this building can become more sustainable in the future." It is estimated that the new port will reduce its energy use by 48 percent over comparable buildings.