A Canadian University's New Archival Storage Facility Connects to Campus

The Canadian University built a new high-bay library and archival storage facility.
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A major Canadian university’s off-site library and archives had been housed in a converted IKEA warehouse on the far outskirts of the city since 1994, and the building began approaching capacity in the early 2000s. After exploring various options for leasing, renting, or purchasing a new facility, the planning team decided to build a new, purpose-built facility on the university’s South Campus.

University of Alberta hallway with a sink and cabinets and Spacesaver personal storage lockers next to it
University of Alberta carpeted room with a few doors and a fireplace

The goal of the new building was to maintain an optimal preservation environment while also fostering a better connection between campus and the collections. The challenge was to build that facility on a relatively small footprint while still allowing for 20 years’ worth of future growth.

Planning for Success

The new facility is just two light-rail stops away from the bustling center of campus, and its public areas are designed to welcome researchers and students. While the on-campus location was appealing for a number of reasons, it also meant that space was limited. Because using that limited space in the most efficient manner possible was of utmost importance, the design-build firm Stuart Olson contacted Spacesaver early in the design process. They decided to install Spacesaver’s XTend® High-Bay Storage System, which takes full advantage of a building’s vertical space.

High-bay shelving is a complex product, and a number of factors need to be considered when determining the system layout. The Spacesaver team visited multiple times and acted as a liaison between the design-build firm and the university employees who would be using the facility every day. “This is such a specialized product, so you need to deal with people who are the professionals,” said Sean Kangas, who managed the project for Stuart Olson. “It was really helpful to hire a team that’s willing to come to the table and be part of the construction team. They brought their expertise forward and helped us understand what the owner wanted and ultimately what we could afford.”

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Empty aisle of High-Bay installation at the University of Alberta
"“My biggest thing with Spacesaver was that they were willing to come to here, take the time to sit around the table with everyone, understand what our requirements were and what needed to be stored, and then come back and say, ‘This is how many racks we need, and this is the optimal layout.”"

- Sean Kangas, Stuart Olson

"Making little tiny adjustments had this massive ripple effect of impact."

- University Archivist

Smart Planning Saves Space

Every square inch matters when storing millions of records and the Spacesaver team helped the university’s archivists understand how smart planning could save space and allow for future growth.

Considering a High-bay Facility?

When building an off-site library storage facility, consider storage solutions early in the process. It is well worth the effort, as the building’s footprint and purpose can be tied directly to the way shelving is implemented.

High-bay shelving stacks at the University of Alberta's off-site storage facility
"This is the type of thing that only happens once every 20 or 30 years, so this is a once-in-a-career event for all of us. We have never done this before and we won’t be here when it happens again."

- Digital Archivist

Integrating with Mechanical Systems

Accommodating millions of books, journals, and archival records was not the design team’s only concern; they also had to build a collections space that would ensure the optimal preservation environment for those materials. Keeping such a large space at a relatively constant temperature and humidity required massive mechanical systems, including air ducts, fans, heaters, and other equipment. The shelving had to fit in with the facility’s mechanical systems while also providing as much shelving as possible.

High-bay shelving facility stacks and fans on the ceiling
High-bay shelving facility stacks and fans on the ceiling