Blog: Leaving our mark on the Canada-US border

The next time you cross the Canada-US border in Ontario things may looks a little different, especially if you are using the Landsdowne point of entry (POE) in the Thousand Islands. The facility has been completely rebuilt, and the grand opening was held held on June 21, 2018. IDEA Inc. was the prime consultant on the project, having provided the administrative oversight of the consultant team, as well as the architectural, mechanical and electrical design. The new building improves processing capabilities for the high-volume facility, while also incorporating innovative and green technologies and design.

The POE is located on Hill Island, situated on the St. Lawrance River, which presented some unique challenges and compelling opportunities. Being one of the busiest border crossings in Canada and processing, on average, over 1.5 million vehicles per year, the existing buildings were no longer meeting the crossing’s needs. It was decided that the sixty-year-old structures would be demolished to make way for a new port of entry, which would meet both current and future needs. It was crucial to keep the port up-and-running during the construction process, so an extremely technical phasing design was implemented to ensure that the performance level of the crossing remained at acceptable levels throughout the three year design and construction period.

Hill Island is comprised mainly of native bedrock. To take advantage of the existing site topography and reduce environmental impact, the building was constructed as a split level operation, placing commuter travel on level one and commercial operations on level two, both at grade. This configuration allowed for the combining of support spaces common to both operations which would normally be duplicated in a traditional two-building approach, reducing the amount of rock requiring blasting required.

The new two-level building was designed to accommodate the Canadian Border Service Agency’s (CBSA) Statement of Requirements, which lays out the necessary standards for their facilities and anticipates future needs. Increasing the processing capacity of the border crossing, while also improving the traffic flow, was a primary concern. The plaza was expanded from eight to fourteen lanes, including eight commuter traffic lanes, one for busses and five commercial lanes. Commuter and commercial traffic is now separated prior to entering the plaza for security purposes, and new overhead changeable message signage provides early indication of the appropriate processing lane. To allow for traffic volume fluctuations between high and low seasons, both commercial and commuter processing can operate from either level of the building.

Hydro was first installed on the island over 80 years prior to the redevelopment. The underwater cable to Hill Island served cottagers, various businesses, hotels and bridge operations for nearly a century, but was not sized adequately to permit an expansion such as the one that was planned for the border crossing. The hydro service provider could accommodate approximately 75% of the facility peak demand capability over the port’s forecasted life. To overcome the issue a number of peak demand saving features were incorporated into the facility including an ice storage system for the cooling plant, LED high mast lighting and a parallel generating plant.

To further the green design, the building uses a rain water harvesting system. Domestic water is provided by an adjacent domestic water treatment facility operated by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority (TIBA.) The treatment facility provides water to the Canadian and USA ports of entry, as well as the Duty Free store on the US side of the island. Up to 25,000 US gallons of rainwater is harvested from the roof and canopy drains, and is then filtered and treated for use in servicing the building’s toilets, urinals and exterior landscaping water supply. Water is not only expensive to treat and certify safe for consumption, but freshwater is also a precious resource. The incorporation of a rainwater harvesting system significantly reduces the long-term environmental impact of the site.

The Landsdowne point of entry marries functional design with new and emerging green technologies. The complexities of building a heavily regulated facility on an island in the St. Lawrence River provided a creative space for an integrated design that not only satisfies the requirements of a port of entry, but also respects the natural environment on which it was built. With the new point of entry up and running, the crossing is ready to process more commuter and commercial traffic than ever before.