Climate Change and Archival Facilities.

Sylvain Belanger

Sylvain Bélanger

Heritage institutions, from all corners of the world, are greatly impacted by climate change. It is therefore important that we work together to deal with the outcomes of this change. Whether from increased temperature fluctuations, or increased frequency of extreme weather events such as floods or fires, heritage institutions must consider these risks as we plan our new archival facilities.

At Library and Archives Canada, these considerations were at the heart of our work over the last five years as we planned a new purpose built facility adjacent and connected to our current state of the art Preservation Centre. The new preservation facility at 12,900 square meters has incorporated, into its design, the most up to date construction materials to create a sustainable facility capable of withstanding Canada’s extreme conditions for generations to come. The site of our new archival facility already faces extremes in temperature from -25C in the Winter to 30C in the Summer; a variance of over 50C, so sustainable, long-term options needed to be incorporated into all facets of the design and planning.

Canada’s newest archival facility will be the first net-zero carbon centre dedicated to archival preservation in the Americas when it goes into operation by summer 2022. The centre will provide 21,240 cubic metres or the equivalent of 8.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools, of collection storage capacity and will be one of the world’s largest facilities equipped with an automated storage and retrieval system for archival collections. In Canada, it will be the first federal building constructed to the requirements of Canada’s Greening Government Strategy. This will support Canada’s sustainability goals, established under the Paris Agreement on climate change and in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The Greening Government Strategy is also consistent with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

With reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increased resiliency of our assets, adapted to changing climate, our goal of a sustainable/state of the art archival storage facility is within reach. Our experience and lessons learned on these challenging issues will be of use to heritage institutions from near or far, for years to come.

Climate impacts will have consequences for heritage institutions for generations to come. International networks such as the ICA will be key to supporting heritage institutions and member nations during these challenging times. Now is the time to strengthen our networks, and work more closely together to tackle the challenges we face.

Sylvain Bélanger
Director General Transition Team
Library and Archives Canada