Emerging Issues in Security

The Border Wall Prototypes Are Up for Review

It remains uncertain whether a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will be built, or if Mexico will pay for it. In the meantime, last year, Congress set aside $20 million for prototypes that stand ready to be tested.

US Mexico Border

Robert Ingelhart / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

The sample border walls are up in a remote section of land outside San Diego, California. Six construction companies have built eight border wall prototypes for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The design of the wall had to meet the following requirements:

  1. Walls need to be at least 18 feet tall, however, 30 feet is considered ideal.
  2. A person should not be able to climb to the top of the wall unassisted. Walls should include anticlimbing features that prevent scaling, even with the use of climbing aids.
  3. Any exposed fixtures need to be on the U.S. side to shield from possible tampering.
  4. The U.S. side of the wall should be visually pleasing in color, texture, and fit into the general surrounding environment.
  5. No hole larger than a foot can be made through the wall in under an hour of trying with the use of handheld tools.
  6. Wall designs must be cost-effective to construct, maintain, and repair. The designs should also accommodate border patrol-approved pedestrian and vehicle sliding gates.

In March of last year, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency solicited vendors to bid for an opportunity to build the test walls. Six companies based in Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, and Maryland, won contracts to build a prototype with concrete or “alternate materials.” Two of the companies won bids to construct both versions.

Here are the six companies’ designs:

Fisher Sand & Gravel Company

Tempe, Arizona

This prototype was the only wall built entirely on-site. It is painted tan and has a distinct gradual slope to make climbing difficult.

KWR Construction Inc.

Sierra Vista, Arizona

KWR Construction built its prototype, the most expensive on-site, with metal columns spaced apart at the base to help agents see the other side. Metal plates and a round pipe sit at the top of the wall.

Texas Sterling Construction Company

Houston, Texas

Texas Sterling Construction built its wall to differ on each side. The U.S. side used a stamped brick pattern, while the Mexican side has metal grating at the top and is covered in spikes.

Caddell Construction Company

Montgomery, Alabama

Caddell designed its prototype, the cheapest on-site, with a hybrid of metal poles at the bottom, metal plates in the middle, and concrete blocks at the top.

Caddell Construction Company

Montgomery, Alabama

Caddell built a second prototype entirely out of concrete. This design features a wide base that narrows toward the top.

ELTA North America

Annapolis Junction, Maryland

ELTA’s prototype includes a concrete base and a distinctive metal top.

W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company

Philadelphia, Mississippi

Yates built its prototype with three concrete panels topped with a large, round pipe.

W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company

Philadelphia, Mississippi

Yates built a second prototype of dark brown, corrugated metal panels with a round pipe at the top.

Fencing is currently erected on about 705 miles of the 1,969-mile border (see below map). According to the agency, the border patrol will use what it learned from the test walls toward a final design for the nearly 2,000-mile-long Southwest border. The agency might consider a final wall that uses a hybrid of different features from the prototypes or could come up with a totally different design.