Throughout the years, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) has stored its historical archives in provinces across the country. In the mid-1990s, four of the American provinces consolidated their collections into a central archive located in St. Louis, Missouri. By 2014, the Jesuits began a realignment process to reduce the number of provinces in the US even further, from 10 to 4. This project was to construct a new 15,700 sq. ft. facility to consolidate the archives of those provinces into a single location in St. Louis with the capacity to add more collections down the road. The new two-story facility would store the collections in a dedicated, specialized temperature and humidity-controlled space. Support spaces include areas to exhibit the collections, large meeting rooms, offices, and a climate-controlled dock for receiving the additional collections.
Before initializing the design of the new Archives Research Center, McClure Engineering performed a conceptual study to develop a facility that would first and foremost focus on the preservation of the collections, which consist primarily of works on paper/vellum and other artifacts from the society’s early years in North America, dating back to the 17th century. Working with a limited budget, McClure Engineering worked to develop systems that would reliably maintain these conditions while being easy to control and maintain by the current Archives Research Center staff. This required a significant level of understanding of the capabilities of the existing staff and where their biggest concerns were with respect to the reliability and operation of the systems.
The budget would not support a chilled water system, requiring that the level of performance and reliability be provided with direct expansion cooling equipment. Critical temperature and humidity control were of the utmost importance, to maintain a steady temperature of 35%RH to 45%RH throughout the year for the collection’s storage and handling areas. For the archival space, the HVAC system included a dedicated outdoor air (desiccant) dehumidification unit which was integrated into the design to support the more stringent humidity requirements which required the temperatures remain at 72° F at 40%RH. The entire archival space received a vapor barrier on its exterior as well as to adjacent spaces to help maintain the designated humidity levels. A FM200 Suppression system was included in the design as well as humidifiers for periods of low humidity.
The multipurpose spaces were outfitted with displays, distributed speakers, microphones, and hard codecs enabling a single system for both local presentation and reinforcement, as well as conference calls. The conference room is equipped with a hard codec display and front mounted speakers for teleconference imaging. A processing room placed away from the other spaces also has a hard codec primarily for communicating locally room-to-room. In addition, a discrete audio/visual system was incorporated into the exhibition area to transform it into a large presentation hall with local microphone reinforcement, wireless display, and coordinated lighting to avoid washing out the projected image. Both lighting and the audio/visual system are controlled via one simplified touch panel.
For the exterior of the Archives Research Center, our Lighting Design team created a well-lit system that maintained light trespass on adjacent properties to help with security. For the interior, linear LED fixtures were installed between wood ceiling slats for a grand entry into the space. Additional LED lighting was incorporated in the archive storage space to prevent degradation of artifacts and individually controlled track lighting was installed in the exhibition space to accommodate the rotating exhibits on display.
Once the construction was complete, it was the job of McClure Engineering’s Commissioning department to ensure that everything was fully functional and matched as closely as possible the Owner’s Project Requirements. Through this process, McClure Engineering discovered that the packaged dehumidification unit posed particular challenges in the acceptance phase of the project including incomplete factory startup efforts, incorrect software installations, and some incorrect component installations. Our commissioning effort identified all these issues and McClure Engineering led the efforts to get them corrected. Cooperative work with the installing contractor and their programming department resulted in system performance that met the challenging requirements of the project.