Fairbanks Field Office, United States Fish & Wildlife Services
Protecting the environment while promoting its preservation, USFWS's new home connects nature to those who are capable of defending it.
Client United States Fish & Wildlife Services (USFWS)
Size 25,900 GSF
Working to protect different wildlife refuges in Alaska, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is deeply committed to the continuation of our planet’s most cherished resources.
Key in its drive to preserve these habitats is public awareness, an asset that the organization at present is working to expand. At USFWS’ current office building in Fairbanks, Alaska, low visibility and difficult entry discourage people from visiting or even knowing what the building is for. As the aim of the organization is to teach as much as it is to intervene, having a space that welcomes people and connects them to nature is paramount.
The new site that USFWS has chosen for its rebirth is thus part of a thriving wetland environment. Not only will this give field workers easy access to a habitat of interest, but it will enable the public to connect to the very subject they are learning about by connecting to Creamer’s Field for nature trails and summer bird watching; and Birch Hill for cross country skiing and dog sledding in the winter months.
Unlike its current office that is siloed and disjointed, this new space will be open and connective. Aiming to house a more inclusive configuration and create a communal culture among its people, all employees – full time and seasonal – will be located on the same floor, with expansive views out to the wetlands.
On the ground level, two front doors provide the public and staff their own entry experiences. The service entrance honors the needs of the employees gearing up for expeditions to arctic refuges with a covered work area without distracting from the visitor experience. Meanwhile, the public facing visitor front door is an inviting and friendly area to meet with refuge staff. The adjacent multipurpose room will accommodate large groups and opens up to an outdoor event space.
Striving to become a communal amenity, not just for the staff but for the public, the site will feature an interpretive meadow where people can come, have picnics, take tours, and enjoy the outdoors.
Although the programmatic aspirations are lofty, the energy goals are even more ambitious, as this will be the first net-zero building in the state of Alaska in the demanding climate of the sub-arctic taiga and boreal forest. The passive sustainable approach includes a high-performance thermal envelope, triple pane windows, and a large double-height atrium that will be a passive source of solar energy harvesting while also providing incredible views of the wetlands. The active sustainable measures include a phased large scale photovoltaic array designed to meet all energy needs on site and a highly efficient heat pump heating system. This all-electric system further reduces the carbon footprint of the building and aligns with the USFWS goal to be a leader in climate responsive design.
Linking itself more closely to nature while also becoming more accessible to the public, the new USFWS building epitomizes the organization’s mission to protect and preserve through intervention, awareness, and education.
Prime Consultant / Civil & Structural Engineering: KPFF Consulting Engineers Architecture: The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP MEP Engineering / Telecom: BCE Engineers Landscape Architecture: Knot