Architecture and landscape

Design requirements for Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) new preservation facility will not only meet, but also exceed, modern preservation standards.

Making it look simple

The simple exterior conceals a complex preservation program that maximizes the use of space and meets stringent environmental requirements. The diamond-shaped minimalist compact design of the facility will minimize its footprint while being respectful of the iconic prominence of the Preservation Centre and the natural surroundings of the site.

The new facility will have the capacity to store 21,238 m3 of archival records. By comparison, the existing Preservation Centre can store approximately 19,000 m3.

Ensuring maximum daylight

The new facility will be located 20 metres north of the existing Preservation Centre and oriented at a 45-degree angle. This will ensure that daylight required by the conservation labs located on the fifth floor of the existing Preservation Centre is not compromised and will reduce wind turmoil at the pedestrian level while maximizing sun exposure to the surrounding courtyard.

Showing what is underneath

In a symbolic nod to the sub-surface natural geology of the site, the stratified layers of soil and rock will be portrayed on the facade of the facility as follows:

Architectural rendering of the new preservation facility, showing the stratified layers on the facade.
The stratified layers of soil and rock from top to bottom: 15% clay, 8% glacial till, 37% limestone, 22% sandstone and 15% granite.

Left image: Architectural rendering of the new preservation facility, showing the stratified layers on the facade.
Right image: The stratified layers of soil and rock from top to bottom: 15% clay, 8% glacial till, 37% limestone, 22% sandstone and 15% granite.

Protecting the collection

The new preservation facility will feature six collection vaults with high-density shelving designed to store the equivalent of 600,000 analogue archival document containers. The vaults will be located on the second floor above a ground-level workspace. This will ensure the collection is well above the level of groundwater and outside the reach of any flooding.

Like the vaults in the Preservation Centre, the vaults in the new facility will have specific temperature and humidity set points to ensure optimum preservation conditions. The security and fire prevention and suppression systems will be state-of-the-art, to ensure maximum protection for the collection.

Automated storage and retrieval system

The new preservation facility will be the world’s largest archival facility equipped with the advanced technology of an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS). This system will circulate collection containers to and from the storage vaults using an automated lift and crane.

Cooler temperatures tend to be better for the storage of an archival collection. As LAC staff will not have to physically enter the vaults to retrieve material, it will, therefore, be possible to keep storage temperatures cool by ensuring entry to and exit from the vaults is minimized.

In addition, as the automated system will work in the dark, it will reduce energy use and minimize the amount of overall light exposure received by our collection.

Building to last

The facility is being designed to last 100 years and to provide a storage environment that will promote a 500-year preservation life of paper records. This means that, although the facility will eventually need to be renovated or replaced, any new piece of paper going in on day one should still be readable in 500 years if it is stored in similar conditions throughout the period.

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