Museums, Libraries & Archival Storage

Cobeal's systems are designed for controlling the environment (temperature, humidity and pollutants) within a museum, library, or other type of archival facility. Not only do systems take into consideration human comfort, but they also control the environment for the preservation of artifacts, books, collections, artworks, etc. These HVAC systems must be operational 24/7 and often require redundancy and auxiliary energy power systems.



Codes and Standards

Design Standards for Archives

Design Standards for Archives

A list of common facility-related codes and standards for archival storage.


Design Standards for Archives

Design Standards for Archives

Design Standards for Archives

Architectural and environmental control design standards for archival storage.


Recommended Equipment

Design Standards for Archives

Recommended Equipment

Recommended equipment and general specifications for archival storage.

Codes & Standards


American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineer (ASHRAE)

General Applications

  • ASHRAE 62.1, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality (2007);
  • ASHRAE 100 Energy Conservation in Existing Buildings (2015);  
  • ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2016 -- Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings (2016);
  • ASHRAE 52.2 Methods of Testing General Ventilation Air Cleaning Devices for Removal Efficiency by Particulate Size (2016); 
  • ASHRAE Guide for Selection of Vibration Isolators (2007)

Archival Applications

  • ASHRAE HANDBOOK - HVAC Applications, Chapter 21, Museums, Galleries, Archives, and Libraries (2016); 

Cold Storage 

  • ASHRAE/ANSI 15-70 Cold Storage Room (2010);

Green Buildings

  • ASHRAE 189.1 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings (2014); 

Datacom Considerations 

  • ASHRAE Best Practices for Datacom Facility Energy Efficiency (2009); 
  • ASHRAE Datacom Equipment Power Trends and Cooling Applications (2005); 
  • ASHRAE Design Considerations for data and Communications Equipment Centers (2009); 
  • ASHRAE Gaseous and Particulate Contamination Guidelines for Data Centers (2009); 
  • ASHRAE Structural and Vibration Guidelines for Datacom Equipment Centers (2008); 
  • ASHRAE Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Equipment (2005);

Human Occupancy/Comfort

  • ASHRAE 55 Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy (2004); 

Safety Considerations

  • ASHRE/ANSI 15 Safety Standard for Refrigeration Systems (2016); 

Sound Considerations

  • ASHRAE 68 Laboratory Method of Testing to Determine the Sound Power in a Duct (2016); 

Design Standards


Environmental Control Standards for Archival Facilities


  • Archival facility: a facility used to store archival records.
  • Archival records: historical materials and records.
  • Facility manager: individual responsible for facility management activities within a building. 
  • Records area: records storage area, a designated processing area, an exhibit area, or a preservation (conservation, duplication, microfilm, digital imaging) laboratory. The term covers areas where records may be kept for extended periods. 
  • Records storage area: an area containing archival records that is enclosed by four firewalls, the floor, and the ceiling. The term includes general stack areas, vaults, and storage areas for exhibits and museum objects, but does not include reference space, staff offices, public spaces (e.g., restrooms and lobbies) or processing areas. 
  • Research room: a room in which researchers may use original records and for which they must be issued a researcher identification card. 


  • Space and Security Management 
    • Conducts periodic building condition surveys and assists in establishing and maintaining a system-wide facility improvement and renovation program; 
    • Establishes architectural and design standards for facility; 
    • Furnishes professional and technical advice on the design and construction of archival storage facilities. 
  • Preservation Program
    • Conducts an integrated, scientific preservation program, including: 
    • Developing and recommending long-range preservation plans and policy for archival records; 
    • Writing specifications for and providing quality assurance testing of those materials used to prolong the useful life of records (e.g., folders and boxes) and of materials that will be used in the proximity of records (e.g. paint, adhesives and finishes, carpeting, pesticides, and cleaning supplies); 
    • Monitoring environmental conditions of archival facilities; 
    • Administering integrated pest management programs; 
    • Providing technical advice and consultant services on specialized storage requirements; 
    • Furnishing professional and technical preservation assistance; 
    • Reviewing the design and construction of archival storage facilities for records preservation issues.
  • Archival Director: Administer the day-to-day facilities management program for the archive, and major renovation and restoration projects. 
  • General Structural Standards for Archival Facilities
    • The facility must be designed in accordance with regional building codes to provide protection from building collapse or failure of essential equipment from earthquake, hazards, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other potential natural disasters. 
    • The facility must be constructed with non-combustible materials and building elements, including roofs, walls, columns, and floors. 
    • A floor load limit must be established for the records storage area by a licensed structural engineer. The limit must take into consideration the weight of the specific type(s) of archival records to be stored, height and type of shelving or storage equipment, the width of the aisles, the configuration of the space, etc. The allowable load limit must be poasted in a conspicuous place and must not be exceeded. 
    • The architectural and engineering design team for the facility must include and work closely with a preservation specialist, who has experience in developing archival storage facilities and has been approved by management. The plans for the facility must be reviewed by management at each submission stage.  
  • Standards to Protect Against Water Damage
    • Location of facility: The archival facility must be sited a minimum of five feet above and 100 feet from any 100 year flood plain area, or be protected by an appropriate flood wall that conforms to local or regional building codes. 
    • Roof: The facility must ensure that the roof membrane does not permit water to penetrate the roof. Place nothing on the roof that may cause damage to the roof membrane, including equipment. Do not install skylights or sloped glazed windows in areas where records are regularly present. Avoid roof penetrations, including vents, over these areas. However, automatic roof vents, designed solely to vent in the case of a fire, with a temperature rating at least twice that of the sprinkler heads, may be used over records storage areas. 
    • Piping: Do not run piping (except fire protection sprinkler piping and storm water roof drainage piping) through records storage areas. If drainage piping from roof drains must be run through records storage areas, the piping must run to the nearest vertical riser and must include a continuous seamless gutter sized and installed beneath the lateral runs to provent leakage into the storage area. Vertical pipe risers in records storage areas must be fully enclosed by shaft construction with appropriate maintenance access panels. 
  • Location of Records Within a Facility
    • Do not store records below grade. Cave/underground facilities may be exempted from the requirement to store records above ground if the facility: 
      • Demonstrates long-term low risk to records because of water, fire, or structural threats.
    • Stores records at least 3 inches from the floor surface. 
    • No fountains, pools, or standing water are allowed over or adjacent to areas where records are stored, processed, used, or exhibited. 
  • Water Detection System
    • If special considerations indicate concerns with possible water damage in records storage areas, consult with COBEAL on the advisability of installing a water detection system.
  • General Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
    • Archives storage areas, processing areas, and preservation laboratories must be served from separate HVAC systems. All other areas of the building may share the same HVAC system. HVAC equipment must not be mounted on the roof of a new facility. 
    • Air handling units serving records storage and processing areas must provide sufficient air exchanges to maintain requirements for temperature, relative humidity, and pollutant control. The number of air exchanges are determined by the planned size of the room, volume of records, volatile organic compounds coming off the records, occupancy, etc. 
    • The records storage areas of the facility must be kept under positive air pressure especially in the areas adjacent to the loading dock. Loading docks must have an air supply and exhaust system that is separate from the remainder of the facility. 
    • Areas where records are used, processed, stored, or exhibited must be isolated from sources of pollutants and particulates, such as the loading dock, machine rooms, or areas where woodworking or painting take place. Doors to the record areas must not open directly onto the loading dock, machine rooms, locations where woodworking or painting takes place, or other similar areas. The air intakes and returns must be designed such that lower quality air and environment cannot affect the records areas, and must have direct venting to the outdoors. 
  • Temperature and Humidity Standards
    • Appendix A specifies the maximum acceptable temperatures in areas where records are stored, and the maximum acceptable temperature set point for areas where records are exhibited, processed, or used. Appendix A also specifies the acceptable range for relative humidity in areas where records are stored, processed, exhibited, or used. Use cooler temperature and drier relative humidity set points whenever possible, as these conditions extend the life and significantly enhance the preservation of the records. Coordinate the selection of temperature and relative humidity set points with COBEAL. 
    • The standards specified in Appendix A must be maintained 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, unless otherwise stated. Once a set point is programmed, daily fluctuations must not exceed 5º F and/or 5% relative humidity. Relative humidity levels represented in a range indicate minimum and maximum set points. Seasonal movement between these set points must not exceed 5% per month while staying within the +/-5% daily band restriction. 
    • Seasonal relative humidity drift in actual operation of the system to reconcile energy efficiency and external climate extremes in certain geographical locations and with certain building types may occur. The building should be designed to accommodate the environmental requirements in a highly energy efficient manner. 
    • Temperature and relative humidity conditions in records areas must be continuously monitored and must be recorded at intervals that are frequent enough, and in a sufficient number of locations to demonstrate and confirm compliance with the recommended standards. The facility manager must maintain the HVAC systems and integrated monitoring equipment according to manufacturer's specifications. The facility manager is responsible for monitoring the temperature and relative humidity conditions in the facility following COBEAL guidance and industry specifications, and ameliorating problems as they develop. 
  • Limits for Air Pollutants (particulate and gases)
    • Appendix B specifies the maximum allowed levels of particulates and gases in records storage areas, processing areas, exhibit areas, and research rooms. The facility manager is responsible for monitoring for pollutants in the facility at intervals frequent enough to demonstrate and confirm compliance with COBEAL guidelines and industry standards. The facility manager is responsible for maintaining particulate and gas filtration systems according to manufacturer's specifications and ameliorating problems as they develop. 
  • Required Air Handling and Filtration Systems
    • Gas-phase filtration system: The gas phase filtration system must control effectively gas phase must control effectively gas phase contaminants including: aeromatic, aliphatic, oxygenated hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and inorganic acid/basic compounts. The operation of the air purification system may be a combination of chemisorption, adsorption, and catalytic processes. The system must be designed to allow periodic monitoring of the filter performance by providing sampling ports or access to the filter ports. 
    • Particulate filtration system: The particulate filtration system for archival records storage and processing areas must have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Rating (MERV) of 14 or greater based on ASHRAE 52.2, "Methods of Testing General Ventilation Air Cleaning Devices for Removal Efficiency by Particulate Size." To extend the service life of the system, it may be desirable to install preliminary filters with lower MERV ratings. A pressure drop measurement system or other equipment must be provided to determine when the filters need to be changed. 
    • Humidification control system. The air handling units must be designed for both humidification and dehumidification. Humidification must be achieved by a clean stream injection system (such as an electronic steam humidifier), an atommized air system using clean water, or equivalent system located down-stream of the gas filtration system. The design of the system must ensure that the system does not generate or harbor microorganisms. 
  • Permitted Finishes in Records Areas
    • Use a water-based latex paint for painting walls and ceilings. All concrete block walls in the storage area must be primed and painted to prevent dust. 
    • Use a low volatile organic compound (VOC) acrylic membrane curing compound for the concrete floors of the records storage areas, after which apply a floor epoxy. Limit the VOC off-gassing of any epoxy and floor coatings in any area where records are processed, used, stored, or exhibited to less than 0.1 part per million by restricting the use of toluene and xylene in the floor coating mix. 
    • Use a powder-coating system to paint all painted metal shelving surfaces (including map cases, museum cabinets, etc.) used within all records areas. The powder-coating polymer must be a polyester epoxy hybrid or best equivalent available that passes independent lab tests for hardness, coating stability, bending, coating adhesion, and coating durability. The paint must not exceed the off-gassing limits specified in Appendix B. Do not apply powder coating to the metal surfaces onsite in the storage area. 
    • If ceiling pipe or exterior stack wall metal panels are to be painted, use an acrylic water reducible primer covered by two latex paint coats. 
  • PROHIBITED Finishing Materials in Areas where Records are used or stored
    • The following materials are not permitted in the areas where records are used, processed, exhibited and stored, including vaults, but may be use din other areas of the facility. For renovated facilities, this paragraph does not apply to previously installed or applied materials. 
      • Cellulose nitrate lacquers and adhesives; 
      • Polyurethane products, including paints, varnishes, and foams; 
      • Acid-curing silicone sealants and adhesives; 
      • Sulfur containing materials that could release SO2; 
      • Pressure sensitive adhesives that release VOCs; 
      • Unstable chlorine polymers (PVCs); 
      • Formaldehyde emitting compounds, such as might be found in particle boards; 
      • Vinyls; and 
      • Oil-based paints and varnishes
  • Carpeting and Wall Coverings NOT Permitted
    • Carpeting, vinyl tiles, and wall coverings are not permitted in the records storage areas, but may be used in other parts of the archival facility. Carpeting, vinyl tiles and wall coverings that minimize off gassing of VOCs must be used in areas where records are regularly present. 
  • Lighting Requirements
    • Records storage areas
      • Normal light levels must not exceed 500 Lux measured 36 inches above the floor level. Ultraviolet (UV) filtration on emergency lighting is required so that UV radiation below 400 nanometers in wavelength does not exceed 75µ W/lumen and 75 µW per square meter of surface area. 
      • Where records are not protected by an enclosure: 
      • UV filtration as specified above
      • Lights in the storage areas that are not required for safety must be off when work is not taking place. Systems (e.g., motion detectors, timers, etc.) should be incorporated to ensure that light exposure to the holdings is minimized. 
    • Processing areas. Lighting levels for normal office space may be used. UV filtration is required so that UV radiation below 400 nanometers in wavelength does not exceed 75µW per square meter of surface area. 
    • Exhibit areas. Lighting must have the capability of full control for light levels 0-200 lux. UV filtration is required so that UV radiation below 400 nanometers in wavelength does not exceed 75µ W/lumen and 75µW per square meter of surface area.
  • General Fire Safety Requirements for Archival Facilities
    • Facilities must comply with requirements and recommended practices specified in NFPA 232 - 2000, Standard for the Protection of Records. 
    • Do not install mechanical equipment containing motors rated in excess of 1 HP within records storage areas.
    • Do not install high-voltage electrical distribution equipment (i.e., 13.2 kv or higher switchgear and transformers) within records storage areas. 
    • Penetrations in the walls must not reduced the specified fire resistance ratings. 
    • Provide a redundant source of primary electric service, such as a second primary service or an appropriately rated emergency generator to ensure continuous, dependable service to the fire alarm and fire protection systems. Manual switching between sources of service is acceptable. 
    • DO NOT store hazardous materials, including records on cellulose nitrate film, in records storage areas. Records on cellulose nitrate film may include photographic negatives, still photographic transparencies, x-rays, motion picture film and microfilm. Nitrate motion picture film and nitrate sheet film may be stored in separate areas that meet the requirements of the appropriate NFPA standard, NFPA 40 (1997), Standard for the Storage and Handling of Cellulose Nitrate Motion Picture Film, or NFPA 42 (1997), Code for the Storage of Pyroxylin Plastic. 
  • Smoke Detection System Requirements
    • The archival facility must have an approved, supervised automatic smoke detection system providing full-building coverage. Smoke detection systems must meet the requirements of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, and must be maintained in accordance with NFPA 72, Part H. 
    • Locate smoke detection devices to provide a 99 percent reliability of detecting the origin of the fire in less than 5 minutes. Use photoelectric-type detectors in records storage areas. 
  • Requirements for Automatic Sprinklers
    • All records storage and adjacent areas must be protected by a professionally designed automatic sprinkler system that is designed to limit the maximum anticipated loss from any single fire event to a maximum of 300 cubic feet of records destroyed. Sprinkler systems for records storage areas must be separately zoned from other building areas. 
    • A wet sprinkler system, installed in accordance with NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, must be used. However, clean agent systems that comply with NFPA 2001, Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems, or pre-action sprinkler systems must be used in cold-storage rooms and other areas subject to temperatures below 40ºF, and may be used in records storage vaults and museum storage areas. These systems may also be used in computer rooms and electrical and telephone closets. 
  • Additional Policies that Contribute to Appropriate Archival Storage Conditions
    • Prohibit smoking, eating, and drinking in all areas in which records are stored, exhibited, or used. 
    • In facilities that have records processing areas, prohibit processing records and photocopying in the records storage areas. To ensure that records are subjected to the best environmental conditions available, retain them in processing areas for as short a time as possible.