Passivhaus archive building marries ‘technical’ with ‘natural’

Hereford Passivhaus Archive and Records Centre

The Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre is a dynamic building with a clear and simple form and layout that creates a variety of stimulating internal spaces, with spaciousness, exhibition areas and distinctive public and private zones. Particular focus and attention was given to creating a building that is welcoming to both regular and drop-in visitors.


The choice of internal materials reflects the characteristics of each internal activity zone, creating a clear and defined arrangement of spaces. The building is designed to meet Passivhaus requirements – a rigorous European standard that works by insulating the building to the most effective levels and to meet PD5454 (archival storage standards). The nature of the simple, well insulated design of the building provides a comfortable, consistent working environment with a constant supply of fresh air all year round.


The building takes the form of two simple and distinct masses separated by a ‘buffer zone’ which is articulated into an entrance foyer, reception, information and display area, overlooked by bridges and a tunnel at higher levels connecting the two spaces.
The larger of the two masses, an un-perforated concrete structural box with vented cedar shingle cladding, holds the main archive and records repository forming secure accommodation over three storeys and providing thermally isolated and environmentally controlled conditions – tuned and optimised for archival storage.


The other, a lightweight 2-storey timber-framed system houses the offices, public search rooms and education facilities. Specified for their graceful weathering patterns, the proposed palette is made up of high quality ‘natural’ materials, which sit, in visual harmony with the landscape.


Solar gain is controlled using brise-soleil (shading blades) and a highly insulated building fabric. Lighting loads are controlled by a combination of switching, daylight and absence control.


Summer ventilation is controlled by users who can open windows
 and insulated secure louvres. Cross ventilation into the atrium space via attenuated air paths is drawn by stack effect through actuator controlled high level openings. This also provides night purge cooling, supplemented if required by mechanical ventilation, to further drive down running costs.


The public entrance, the face and heart of the building, provides a dramatic threshold, incorporating reception, refreshments, information stations, exhibition space, WC’s and lockers. This area enables views throughout the building; horizontally, vertically and externally. Daylight penetrates this area flowing deep into the building, allowing the passage of the sun to animate spaces throughout the day.


From the entrance, the remaining public accommodation is reached through secure access and comprises of large open plan search and study areas towards the south façade, with enclosed daylit spaces washed with light from high level clerestory glazing from the atria.


All accommodation utilises a mixture of mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR) and natural ventilation strategies depending upon seasonal and occupational needs, enabling a fully moderated internal environment.


Internal communication within a building promotes social and spatial connectivity, engendering at all times a sense of relative location, both internal and external, maximising building and spatial legibility by the visitors and users.



Photo credit – Architype

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