Port of entry facility aims to earn LEED gold rating

Published on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 by Tara Nelson

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When travelers cross the third busiest northern border crossing into the United States next year, they will no longer see the dilapidated border inspections facility currently occupying the Peace Arch port of entry. Instead, they will be greeted by one of the greenest border facilities in the country.

The $107 million project will replace the existing 1976 building, which officials say is “functionally obsolete” with a beautiful new facility and redevelop the layout of the secondary inspection lanes. It will also include an overall expansion of the site from three acres to 12, as well as a new freeway bridge.

The new building is approximately 30,000-square feet and will strive for LEED gold certification, a program developed by the U.S. Green  Building Council to certify green building practices.

The project boasts the entire gammut of energy efficient and environmentally friendly features from water efficient toilets, minimal design, passive solar heating, native landscaping, use of recycled materials, Forest Stewarship Council (FSC)-approved wood and low-VOC paints and adhesives, to low-emitting carpets and polished concrete. In addition, up to 90 percent of construction waste will be recycled or reused on-site.

LEED certified project engineer Isaac Conley said that figure will divert as much as 1,200 tons, or 2.4 million pounds, of construction waste from landfills.

“That’s a huge amount,” he said. “With most construction waste, only about 50 percent is diverted.”

Conley said they achieved this figure by contracting with a company that performs hand sorting as well as recycling much of the asphalt from the site’s former parking lot for use in the foundation, and relocating the site’s former triplex to a new site on 8th Street.

He added that 21 percent of all new material used in the construction was harvested or manufactured within 500 miles. “That’s about $5.5 million that goes back to the local economy,” he said.

The building’s green roof made of native plants will not only reduce glare, also known as a “heat island effect,” but help reduce stormwater runoff and cooling costs in the summer.

General Services Administration regional director Robin Graf said part of the objective of the LEED government madate is to help that industry develop so that products no longer have a market premium.

“The other objective is that 10 years from now, we want the industry to look at us as a leader in architectural design,” he said.

Inside, U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees will enjoy natural daylight flooding through a 350-foot southern-facing wall, independent heating controls and light sensors that adjust to the available daylight to reduce energy consumption.

“One of the things about LEED is that it’s not just about being environmentally friendly,” Conley said. “It’s also about increasing the quality of the work environment for the employees and that means features that increase thermal comfort and light controllability.”

The project is expected to be completed by December, 2010.