Peace Arch Border Crossing

Savannah College of Art and Design
P.O. Box 3146
Savannah, Georgia 31402
Stephany Knize
Business Phone: (912) 525-6830

Project Location: Blaine, Washington
Completion Date: 05/28/2018
Owner: Savannah College of Art and Design

Project Description

The project was first based on research, including site and climate analysis, programmatic spaces, codes, and the development of smart design strategies. Its unique program consisted of four main components: inspection areas, offices, residential units, and a recreation center. The goal was to deal with issues related to complex program development and spatial flow. During Schematic Design phase, an outline of programmatic spaces including a list of area sizes and their relationships was established. Programmatic matrixes were developed to analyze relevant data about area program and spatial relationships, indicating the different programmatic perimeters applicable, such as public vs private, staff-access vs visitor, secure vs non-secure, and active vs sedentary. The development of these matrixes helped define and improve the port’s circulation from its current one, categorizing these spaces by being adjacent or separated from each other. From a conceptual standpoint, public and private spaces were divided into independent masses – separating the experience into vehicular and internal users while addressing security issues. Since this is a federal building, security and safety are priorities. Therefore, a significant amount of research was dedicated to IBC occupancy classifications for each individual area, as well as the required number of egress and egress strategies, access widths, and internal travel distances. Passive and active strategies for the entirety of the area program were applied to each occupancy space under the NFPA Fire Protection and mitigation strategies listing. In addition, as federal buildings undergo many changes during their lifetime, the floor plan was configured with long life loose fit in mind, providing flexible architecture and the ability to expand and reconfigure programmatic spaces within the established structural grid. Next, during the Design Development phase, landscape and MEPS were major driving design factors to address the connection between the existing structure, its renovation, and its extension. Furthermore, these factors led to an analysis of conceptual estimates of probable construction cost.

The intention and focus of the project were to increase efficiency while offering a simple, direct movement of traffic and staff. Arena Simulation software was used to analyze the intended implementations and statistically compare the improvements between the existing program flow and the new proposal. To analyze the results, the existing Peace Arch border station consisted of 10 primary inspection lanes. Statistically, the average wait time was up to 5 hours with 3,500-4,800 non-commercial vehicles crossing daily. The extension and renovation of the proposed design avoided demolition cost by keeping 70% of the existing structure while increasing programmatic flow efficiency by 35%. And finally, the implementation of earth sheltering unified all elements and created a tunnel exclusively for bus traffic lanes, which increased traffic efficiency by 20%.

Design Challenge

The goal was to explore a wide understanding of construction economics and engineering, along with a wider vision and knowledge on sustainable design. There was an extensive analysis of cost indicating that there would be a dramatic drop in budget if integrating the existing structure within the new design. This deduction became one of the greatest focus and challenge of the project, which lead to the anticipation of structural challenges - including renovations of the existing and an extension for new construction. Innovation through sustainability and fabrication tackled the project’s unique challenges, along with research-based solutions that contributed to the development of a smart building. It was crucial to create well-thought and well-crafted ideas that would artfully balance beauty with function and address the project’s extensive program to work accordingly with its form and structure. An atrium connects the adapted structure to the new mass above it, significantly increasing interior natural lighting. The middle volume of the above building is supported by a bridge structure truss uniquely designed based on the building’s form. It spans through two main cores, one being an atrium with a mechanical and plumbing core, and the other being a mechanical and egress core. Construction documents were developed to fully explain the structural systems and renovation intentions. When addressing these structural challenges, the intention was to explore the limitations of modularity and cost to have the ability to create thoughtful design solutions with strategies that would allow such a project to be affordable. As a result, avoiding demolition by keeping 70% of the existing structure helped save a total of $7,900,000. This not only reduces cost but also complies with the principles of designing with less waste as it also reduces construction. The final budget estimation was established to be a total of $14,800,000. To further break out the cost: $8,000 was dedicated for the upgrade and extension of the current primary inspection booths and the addition of 2 traffic lanes. Landscape then covers and insulates the building while creating a tunnel exclusively for the additional bus traffic lanes. The implementation of earth sheltering was $4,500,000, which helped unify all elements through nature, giving the feeling of no boundary. $24,000 was for demolition of unusable existing structure and $3,880,000 was for renovation of the existing building, accommodating 37% of programmatic spaces. Finally, $6,400,000 was invested on the construction of the new top office building, independent and without affecting primary and secondary inspection operations. What makes this project not only innovative, but unique, is the way that its design challenge was taken as an opportunity to celebrate the idea of rehabilitating an existing building. Destroying it and starting new construction would’ve been the easy way out, though meaningful architecture is that which instead encourages adaptive thinking and sustainable solutions.

Physical Context

The existing site circulation was analyzed, addressing issues that needed to be considered in the new border crossing. Relevant data regarding vehicular and traveler flow during both indoor and outdoor scenarios was gathered to define what would be the ideal circulation based on program. The master plan was developed responding to its contextual site. Being no man’s land, one of the greatest focus was to unify the US and Canadian borders with the use of extensive landscape surrounding the site. Peace Arch Border Crossing was then envisioned as a project connecting formal spaces with nature. The existing two-story volume, consisting of all inspection areas, is oriented West to East and stays long and narrow to maximize solar gain and allow cross ventilation breezes to cool and circulate air in central zones. Its rooftop is equipped with a system of green roof, which act as water purifiers as well as insulators for the building. It filters rainwater to be collected in a grey water cistern and pumped to a constructed wetland treatment system located near the building. Excess cleaned grey water is sent offsite with treated black water and reintroduced to the near Semiahmoo Bay in the case of an oversupply of water. The site simultaneously creates a bio-swale system for filtering water that promotes onsite infiltration. The ground footprint has been reduced by lifting the new building volume off the ground and giving the idea of floating architecture. This hovering volume, where offices and private spaces are located, has been slightly rotated parallel to the existing bridge to allow enhanced views for staff, while responding to the site’s grid. Its rotation also allows maximize southern exposure and creates programmatic green spaces. The new building was molded to resemble a rock, symbolizing security and stability while responding to Seattle’s harsh climate. Its steep roofs help avoid snow loads and provide efficient drainage to deal with storm-water management. A double skin façade system was designed to equipped most of the building’s surface area, providing fresh air to enter and circulate through its interior, while maximizing heat retention and durability. Because it symbolizes a rock, the building exterior have been cladded with fiber cement panels. Whilst the interior’s large ceilings and bright CLT wood beams and flooring creates a fine contrast of materiality. The high ceilings allow passive ventilation and natural convection exhaust.