The state-of-the-art 507,274-sq-ft. National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) National Personnel Records Center was built for the U.S. General Services Administration St. Louis under a design-build contract with HKS, Inc. The $112 million project was developed by The Molasky Group of Companies, which leases the building to the General Services Administration (GSA).
Situated on a 29.5-acre parcel, the new three-story archives facility serves as the central repository of personnel-related records for both the military and civil service employees of the U.S. government, making it the largest national archives facility outside of greater Washington, D.C. Its mission is to provide service to government agencies, military veterans, former civilian federal employees, family members as well as researchers and historians. The new facility is the home to over 800 National Personnel Records Center’s (NPRC) staff and 14 other federal agencies. Personnel files of people like Douglas MacArthur, Clark Gable, Elvis Presley, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Beatrice Arthur, and recent Presidents are stored in the facility, along with 500 other Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP).
The records storage area includes three levels of high-density shelving and catwalk grating for 385,000 shelves, on 29-ft-tall stacks, housing 2.3-million boxes of military personnel records dating to 1821. The archives facility also includes preservation labs, 13 records bays and two burn bays, research area, multipurpose rooms, and office space. As part of the project, the team constructed full and complete tenant fit-up for the 14 agencies with elevated government security.
Shelving/Storage: To maximize space, the shelving was increased from 10-14 feet high in previous facilities, to the current 29-foot high shelving units (385,000 shelves). The staff uses a network of catwalks to move throughout the area. Other features:
- Strict temperature/humidity, based on types of files stored in each of the 15 bays
- Equipped with particulate and ultraviolet filtration
- Special paint, sealants, caulking, and the finishes for the shelving have been certified for minimal off-gassing of volatile organic compounds, which are harmful to documents over time, in accordance with NARA 1571 standards.
Preservation Lab: Almost 30,000 sq. ft. of the office building is a dedicated pressurized laboratory. The primary purpose of this laboratory is the restoration of almost 6 million American files burned in a 1973 fire. The laboratory also has capabilities of working with records damaged by fire, water, stains, and simply age. Specialized equipment includes control vacuums, specialized sinks, dark rooms, fume hoods, chemical control, and specialized digital equipment.
Research Rooms: The Archival Research Room is dedicated to providing the public full and open access to the National Personnel Records Center’s (NPRC) archival records holdings. Researcher stations accommodate laptops, scanners, and other approved equipment.
Multipurpose Room: For exhibits featuring special collections with full audio-visual capabilities. Features specially coated exterior glazing and light fixtures to minimize exposure to harmful ultraviolet light.
The building has complex mechanical and electrical engineering systems designed to protect the records from outside humidity and air contamination to preserve the historic value of the nation’s military and federal personnel records. It meets all modern archival standards and is certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) program. The system also includes chilled water conditioning of air, redundant systems for critical services and building areas, convenience and emergency paging system, security access and CCTV system, and miscellaneous audio/visual.
The team utilized the features of BIM to plan, control, analyze, schedule, and streamline several facets of the project. Some examples include:
- Facilitated several major cost mitigating efforts
- The project manager managed the development of 1-million sq. ft. of conflict free overhead MEP shop drawings.
- Integrated into the warehouse MEP coordination was the high-density shelving design model, along with three levels of shop drawing designs for lighting, fire alarm, fire protection, and HVAC.
- Utilized the 3D design to coordinate modifications necessary and impacts to the tilt-wall openings when a major value engineering decision was made to convert the facility from typical roof top units to a water-cooled chiller system.
- The concrete foundation subcontractor utilized BIM to perform quantity takeoffs, design its shop drawings, organize specific portions of the foundation system into daily work ‘event’ packages for its crews including customized rebar installation direction derived from the model, order materials, schedule activities, and track progress.
Some examples of points achieved were related to:
- Optimize Energy Performance (minimum 10.5% reduction in energy - NARA achieved 17.5%)
- Recycled Content (minimum 10% - NARA achieved 20%)
- Regional Materials (minimum 10% - NARA achieved 20%)
- Construction Waste Management (at least 50% diverted from landfill - NARA achieved 75%)
- Water Use Reduction (at least 30% design reduction below standards)
- Innovation in Design
- Site Development (Maximize Open Space)
- Stormwater Design (Quantity and Quality Control)
- Heat Island Effect (Low-reflective white roof)
- Water Efficient Landscaping (no irrigation)
- Enhanced Refrigerant Management
- Construction IAQ Management Plan During Construction
- Low-Emitting Materials (adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, carpet, composite wood and agrifiber products)
- Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control
- Controllability of Systems (Lighting)