Project Profile: Library + Archives Canada Preservation and Access Facility
Coordinating 230 resources in seven different offices, using information sharing and building modeling technologies on an accelerated design schedule with an integrated approach may seem arduous, but it was small compared to the challenges that were met.
Engineering firm: Stantec
2023 MEP Giants rank: 9
Project: Library + Archives Canada Preservation and Access Facility
Location: Gatineau, QB, Canada
Building type: Educational facility; preservation/museum facility
Project type: Existing building retrofit
Engineering services: Automation, controls; electrical, power; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; lighting; plumbing, piping
Project timeline: November 2018 to December 2022
Coordinating 230 resources in seven different offices, using information sharing and building modeling technologies on an accelerated design schedule with an integrated approach may seem arduous, but it was small compared to the challenges that were met!
Dealing with precise and efficient robots: In particular, strict temperature and humidity control had to be guaranteed without interruption to maximize the collection’s shelf life. Normal operations rely on systems that have a neutral carbon footprint. The generators needed to maintain the controlled environment in the event of a breakdown can use renewable natural gas. In addition, synergy with the robotics consultant allowed for optimized energy recovery when braking the cranes, but also programmed sequential use of the robots when they are in emergency mode, cutting the need for backup power in half.
Intelligent assembly: Once the fire detection and protection solution was defined, the assembly and construction of the shelves proved to be a major challenge. Stantec’s team worked with the racking supplier to define an assembly strategy that incorporated the majority of the piping, speeding up construction and reducing the need for overhead work.
This collaborative phasing greatly offset the delays caused by COVID-19 during construction.
Designing a controlled museum environment had never been done for a volume of space of this size. To optimally preserve documents and microfilms, the room temperature must remain between 6 and 10°C, with a relative humidity of 30 to 40%. With motorized cranes generating heat and the risk of air stratification, collaborative work with robotics consultants, computational fluid dynamics simulations, and commissioning professionals resulted in a benchmark solution in the field.
This accomplishment was crucial in creating the largest automated archive center in the world to date, making it also the first in America designed to the net-zero carbon standard and the first special-purpose federal building meeting the requirements of the Green Government Strategy.
The fire protection challenge was significant, and on two fronts: meeting the extremely high functional criteria of the preservation center, and redefining the National Fire Protection Association standards that do not specify requirements for such high vaults (28 meters). The solutions designed include innovative air-suction detection systems, a simple pre-action barrier system that prevents water from entering the vaults, and piping maintained under nitrogen pressure instead of air to maintain sterile environments.