Rethinking Our History- recently completed centre leads the way for archival storage

Architype’s innovative £8m Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre, funded by Herefordshire Council, has this month completed on the Enterprise Zone in Rotherwas, Hereford.

Providing state-of the art accommodation for the county’s archive records, the new centre is the first building of its kind in the UK to be designed and built to the rigorous Passivhaus standard, as well as the new guide for the storage and exhibition of archival materials, PD5454, released in March 2012.

With the county’s current facilities in need of extensive and costly repair, an intensive restoration project back in 2011 outlined the importance of appropriate accommodation for this extensive collection. Taking the requirements of the brief beyond client expectation, lead architects, Architype designed a dynamic building that offered an innovative, simple solution to the complex nature of archiving, whilst Kiers familiarity of PD5454 and enthusiasm for Passivhaus helped achieve the ambitious targets on-site.

The new centre brings together the council archive service; county archaeology service, historic environment record, and the biological records centre within one building for easy and efficient access. Offering a range of social and community outreach programmes, a dedicated educational room and improved facilities for the public; the building has been design not only for the specific purpose of archiving, but as a central and inclusive service for the county.

The centre takes the form of two simple and distinct masses, the larger forming the archive repository. An un-perforated concrete structural box houses over three storeys of archival documents, equating to 7800 collections and approximately 2 miles of integral shelving. Offering perfect repository conditions, the airtight building is a thermally isolated and environmentally controlled internal space that has been tuned and optimised for this specific purpose.

Externally clad with a striking cedar shingle vented façade, this specialist facility makes for an impressive natural backdrop to this prominently cited public building.

The public entrance, forming the face and heart of the building, provides a dramatic three-storey open-plan space with views throughout the building; horizontally, vertically and externally. Incorporating the reception, refreshment area, information stations, exhibition space, WC’s and lockers, this area offers flexibility and a stimulating, fresh environment that can adapt to the archives development and future.

Further into the building, the admin facilities, public research rooms, education facilities and conservation lab all benefit from high quality of comfort, air and natural light synonymous with Passivhaus. With ideal conditions for focused study and work, it is hoped that the new facility will offer a dynamic balance of social and spatial connectivity, alongside a productive and studious working environment. Besides offering outstanding internal comfort, the stringent Passivhaus specification will substantially reduce energy running costs for the Centre, achieving approximately 80% saving compared to similar facilities designed to standard UK Building Regulations.

The simplified form of the Archive Centre is the ultimate showcase for its carefully selected, natural material palette, specified for graceful weathering patterns and quality materials, which sit in visual harmony with the Herefordshire landscape. Timber, lime render and aluminium sheet make for a fresh and clean aesthetic, alongside the celebrated eyecatching effect of cedar shingles. Completed in a choice of low-maintenance ecological finishes, the outcome is a healthy toxin-free, low-carbon environment that complements the wider design concept.

Architype’s unique solutions and inclusive design of the Herefordshire Archive and Record Centre hope to set a precedent for Archive facilities in the UK, preserving our histories for future generations and promoting investigation and research that can be easily accessed in a comfortable, secure environment. The high levels of quality and sustainable design seek to inspire the future of civic buildings, preserve the archives with limited running costs to maintain the finely tuned environmental conditions and extend the purpose of Archive Centres, enhancing the local vernacular as well as providing flexible facilities that answer a range of local needs.

Mark Barry, Associate Architect, Architype, commented:

“Following rigorous analysis and understanding of the stringent needs of our clients and archival buildings generally, we have used creative and skilful design to deliver an inspiring and pioneering building which we believe will set the standard for archival buildings around the UK and beyond. The building is pioneering because of its simplicity and what we were able to design out. We have avoided the need for the large amounts of building services that usually are required in this type of facility, to provide a building that uses a considerably less amount of energy to run, is very simple to operate, comfortable to use and extremely reliable in its operation.”