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Archives & Record Storage Building

(by Edward Acker, AIA, Steven Winter Associates, Inc. and Paul O'Connell, P.E., Operations Concepts, Inc.)

Archives and Record Storage Buildings are facilities that provide a proper environment for the
purpose of storing records and materials that require permanent protection for historic and
lifetime storage, upkeep, and preservation. Archives and Record Storage Buildings must be
high-performance buildings whose systems must be designed to operate permanently at a very
high level with zero tolerance for failure. The often irreplaceable nature of the materials to be
permanently stored and preserved in this type of building requires a life-cycle analysis and
approach to its design and construction, with extensive redundancy in its building systems.

This building type must be designed to accommodate the loads of the materials to be stored;
the sensitive environmental needs of different materials to be permanently stored and
preserved; the functional efficiency, safety, security, and comfort of the visiting public and
operating personnel; and the protection of the archived materials from fire, water, and man-
made threat.

Building Attributes

An Archives and Record Storage Building must have working environments that are safe,
secure, healthy, comfortable, durable, aesthetically pleasing, and be accessible. Administrative
office space, archival and preservation office space, and permanent storage space for the
stored archival and record materials must be accommodated.

Types and Attributes of Spaces

An Archives and Record Storage Building incorporates a number of space types to meet the
needs of staff and visitors. These spaces and their attributes may include:

spaces and their attributes may include:


 Administrative Offices: May be private and/or semi-private acoustically and/or visually

 Archival Office Areas: May require environmentally separate spaces for preservation
and curatorial operations handling different materials, may require specialized
furnishings and equipment, all secure from unauthorized public/visitor access

 Secure access corridor from archival office areas to archive spaces

 Secured visitor/researcher office(s) to view archival materials: consider several "eyes-

on" security vantage points, i.e., viewing glass from office reception and from nearby
administrative office areas and/or CCTV cameras

 Archival Materials Storage: For materials used by staff for curatorial and preservation
office operations. May require special/separated environmental conditions for different
materials being processed

 Staff sanitary facilities

Visitor Support Spaces

 Lobby: central location for building entrance containing directory, schedules, and
general information: consider a retail shop. See display considerations below.

 Provide adequate space for security investigation station at entrance. Consider lockers
for visitor personal packages/bags.

 Consider separate circulation and access paths for public visitors/tourists who will not
need to see archival materials vs. scholars/researchers who will.

 Scholar/researcher access: to secured space in office area.

 Display of selected archival items for visitors: consider display case(s) or gallery
depending on number/frequency of visitors.

 Visitor sanitary facilities.

Employee Support Spaces

 Employee entrance from parking area or street: consider separate employee and public

 Cafeteria or lunch room area, vending machines: locate to inhibit food and liquids from
entering the archives and archival office areas.

 Employee sanitary facilities.

 Access to outside parking spaces or enclosed parking area, or public transportation if

Archival Storage Spaces

 Compartmented storage spaces: consider fire protection and egress life safety
requirements, and distinct environmental requirements of different stored materials.
No windows, skylights, roof penetrations, or rooftop mounted equipment should occur
within/above the compartmented archive spaces.

 Structural loading should consider wet weight of stored materials in the event of
sprinkler activation.

 Configuration of storage spaces will be dependent on size and nature of objects to be

stored: flat or volumetric, physical composition of archived material, and frequency of
use/access to stored materials.

 Design storage spaces efficiently to minimize space given over to aisles.

 Storage methods can have a large impact on the size and configuration of storage
spaces, with large cost implications for building and/or storage equipment as well.

 It is generally less expensive to increase building height than footprint area for the same
amount of volume of stored materials. This is especially true in consideration of
planning for future expansion of storage space.

 Consider the interaction between building design and selection of storage method that
will affect height and volume of storage spaces, weight and structural loading,
accessibility, and fire protection measures.

 Consider impact of multi-story archive storage on fire protection of structure and heavy
foundation design, and ability for fire fighters to access fires and adequately ventilate
heat and smoke.

 Consider impact of storage systems on methods of fire protection: open vs. solid
shelving, flue space for sprinkler water penetration, need for in-rack/shelf/cabinet
sprinkler heads, affect of water on stored material, and smoke and heat ventilation.

 Storage methods may consist of all or some combinations of:

o Open steel shelving with archive boxes of stored record materials or open
volumetric materials.

o File cabinets-letter, legal, or flat files for drawings, art materials

o High-density horizontal sliding storage systems and/or carousels.

o High-density vertical storage systems and carousels:

a. Note that vertical carousels can bring all stored materials in the carousel
to a sitting stationary operator, and are thus accessible.

b. Such systems can be very expensive and are used in a most cost-effective
manner for materials needing frequent access.

 The cost of high-density storage systems should be examined in context with the
offsetting reduced cost of a smaller building footprint or building volume.

Archive Access Corridor(s)

 Links archival office area with all compartmented archive spaces

 Provides required emergency egress from all archive spaces

 Consider design strategies to achieve daylight and view access in corridor(s) -windows,
skylights, clerestory windows.

 Consider running mechanical and electrical services in corridor ceilings/plenums to

service archive spaces and eliminating wall penetrations between archive spaces.

 Links to a secured receiving/loading area without going through other spaces

 Corridor and door widths sufficient for two carts to pass each other, or for largest
objects being stored

Operation and Maintenance Spaces

 Utility service entry rooms

 Mechanical and electrical equipment rooms: locate remote from archive storage spaces
and archival office areas which might have sensitive measuring instrumentation

 General office storage closets: for stationery, office equipment, and instructional

 Computer/communications rooms

 Maintenance closets with janitor sinks

 Secured receiving/loading area. Depending on level of security required, consider

separate package screening room.
Important Design Considerations

 Consider full accessibility for all workers and visitors to the archive building.
 Consider use of archival storage systems that are accessible for all workers.

Design of storage buildings is challenging because they tend to be large massive
structures with vast expanse of featureless wall surfaces. Aesthetic examination may
focus on several considerations:
 The extent of public exposure and visitation
 The need to project a positive organizational image
 Consider aesthetic expression if stored archival materials have symbolic and/or historic
 The surrounding environment and context-both man-made and natural
 The need to provide controlled natural light to interior work spaces
 The need to breakdown large or massive scale of storage type buildings. Consider use of
varying architectural massing and materials, and use of landscaping features such as
trees and earth berms in the design.
 The need to provide stimulating and interesting interior space for the employees and
 Consider procession from exterior to interior spaces

The high-performance archives and record storage building should be evaluated using
life-cycle economic and material evaluation models. The mission of this building type is
to preserve valuable materials and records for long duration. Design and construction of
such a building is imperative to mission performance and savings on long-term
operations and maintenance.

Functional / Operational


Technical Connectivity

Secure / Safe

Fig: New National Archives of France by
Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas