Archives Outside

For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

It’s Blog Action Day and the topic is climate change (and archives?)

Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.
Blog Action Day website

You may wonder how an archives can contribute to saving the planet? Well, here we will introduce you to the newest building at the Western Sydney Records Centre which can boast of being world class in using the latest innovations in environmental technology.

Stage 6

Known as Stage 6, this addition (of the Government Records Repository) was completed in 2005. It uses geo-thermal technology which taps into the heat below the earth’s surface to create the perfect atmosphere for records storage.


While designed to integrate with the rest of the Western Sydney Records Centre complex, the focal point of Stage 6 was to maximise environmental efficiencies and minimise greenhouse gas impacts using features such as full insulation, concrete walls and internal walls, and lighting and air conditioning systems that can be turned off in areas not in use.

As an aside, the capacity is  c.135 linear kilometres or over 750,000 Type 1 boxes.

Environmentally friendly air-conditioning

Stage 6 has a geo-thermal air-conditioning system. This means that 100 pipes, each over 100 metres long, run underground near the building carrying the water that is used to maintain the temperature throughout the building. Circulating the water in this way results in it being an even 20 degrees at all times and is far more cost effective and environmentally efficient than heating or cooling it using electricity. It also means that a much smaller and quieter plant-room is possible to service the building.

Double doors

To assist the air-conditioning system in maintaining an even temperature at all times there are only two external doors in use. If the main door is open, the second door behind it acts as a  ‘buffer’. It operates similar to air-lock to stop the external air getting into the storage areas. This is further enhanced by an air-curtain that operates automatically whenever the second door is opened.

Stage 6 - now filled with records

Motion detection lighting system

The lights throughout the building are generally set to ‘automatic’: the lights will be on in the corridors and in the core areas but only every second light will be on in the smaller aisles between the shelves. When movement is detected these lights switch on and stay on for two hours.

When either of the main lighting control panels is turned ‘Off’ there is a time delay of several minutes as the lights in the smaller aisles then the main corridors and then the core areas progressively power down. This delay allows anyone in the building when the lights are turned off to safely make their way to an exit.

Fire system

Passive devices

The building is divided into several fire compartments, intended to stop any fire spreading beyond a single section. The construction of the building provides passive fire protection through the use of fire-resistant materials for floors, doors, walls and ceiling. In particular the ceiling is constructed from fire retardant panels which also provide exceptional insulation. There is also an advanced smoke detector system in place.

Water saving gas fire suppression system

Instead of using water to put out a fire Stage 6 has a gas fire suppression system. The gas used is argonite and the system works by flooding a confined space with the gas to drop the oxygen in the air below the 15% required for a fire to burn. The gas is not dangerous, is environmentally stable and, unlike water, does no damage to paper.

Smoke detectors

If one smoke detector is activated the Fire Brigade will be called automatically. The doors to that area will close and the air-conditioning to the affected area will shut down. The evacuation system will sound and the ‘Fire Alarm’ will activate.

If the alarm is in the core area the lift will go to the next floor and the doors will open so that people can get out of the lift. The lift will not move after this because otherwise it could create a draft which could draw the gas from where it is needed.

Stage 6 is a winner!

2007 award

In 2007, Stage 6 was the winner of the Green Buildings category in the Penrith City Council’s inaugural Excellence in Design Awards. It was deemed to be ‘world class’. Stage 6 incorporates the latest innovations in environmental technology with energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction principles incorporated into the functional design, without compromising its strategic purpose or financial viability.

2006 award(s)

Stage 6 was also a finalist in the 2006 Engineering Excellence Awards (NSW Division) conducted by Engineering Australia.

Engineering Excellence Award

A prestigious Green Globe Award was received by State Records for the Stage 6 building in recognition of its environmental credentials.

The Department of Energy, Utilities and Sustainability (DEUS) runs the Energy and Water Green Globe Awards, which is the NSW Government’s leading energy and water efficiency awards scheme. The Awards honour leadership and commitment in the sustainable use of energy and urban water in NSW. The Stage 6 building was a finalist and was named Energy Champion for the entire Government sector for 2006.

Question for you

Can you point us to other environmentally-friendly archives repositories?