Bright-Minded Home June 2016
Q+A with Portland architects Scott Simons and Austin Smith on the sustainable principles behind the city’s new Casco Bay Lines Ferry Terminal
Completed in 2014, Scott Simons Architects’ open and bright renovation of the 1988 Casco Bay Lines Ferry Terminal has turned waiting for a ferry into an enjoyable experience. A new 4,900-square-foot glass-enclosed addition with a waiting room, restrooms, and ticket offices provides expansive harbor views and has a number of sustainable features.
Q: HOW DID THE NEEDS OF THE BUILDING DETERMINE THE GREEN COMPONENTS?
SIMONS: The ferry terminal is not a typical building—it’s a place to pause between coming and going. We wanted to connect visitors with the waterfront and get them excited about the journey to come. To that end, we created a permeable envelope, an enclosure that disappears, and this informed the heating and cooling decisions. Automatic doors allow the walls to open up on nice days for natural ventilation. Air-conditioning was thus not necessary; instead, a mechanical ventilation system circulates cool air through the building at night.
SMITH: The 20-foot-high ceiling and glass enclosure provide light, reducing electricity use. And a roof overhang on the south shades the interior from the heat of the sun. In the cold months, the sun is lower and comes in below the overhang for passive solar heating. Radiant heating in the concrete floor slab brings warmth only where needed—down low, where the people are.
Q:IN WHAT OTHER WAYS DID YOU MANAGE COSTS AND CONSERVE RESOURCES?
SMITH: We reused as much of the existing infrastructure as possible. The addition rests on the pilings that were beneath the former mechanical room, and we built around the concrete floor slabs in the original structure and sections of chain-link fencing at the boarding gates. The cost of replacing the fire sprinkler system in the original building would have been substantial, so we designed the new bathrooms and storage areas around it.
Q:WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT SUSTAINABLE DESIGN DECISION?
SIMONS: “Right-sizing” the building. The budget and sustainability goals encouraged us to build only the amount of square- footage that was needed. You have to heat and maintain each square foot, so it makes sense to build conservatively.
SMITH: After careful analysis, we determined the largest number of people that might be in the building at one time: two ferry loads, or about 150 people. We also determined that only 12 low-flow, dual-flush toilets and two urinals would be required for the volume of traffic. An intimate space can facilitate more meaningful interactions between people. The rhythms of waiting for the ferry are an integral part of the experience, and we wanted the building to honor that tradition.