Library of Congress National A-V Conservation Center wins top award for Mid-Atlantic Region.

Vanderweil Engineers designed the building systems (which required state-of-the-art temperature control and fire protection systems) for the Library of Congress National A-V Conservation Center, which won “Overall Project of the Year” and “Institutional Project of the Year” from Mid-Atlantic Construction magazine in its Best of 2007 awards program.

In addition, the Phoenix at Clarendon Metro in Arlington, VA, won “Mixed-Use Project of the Year.”  A third Vanderweil project, the U.S. Pharmacopeia headquarters consolidation in Rockville, MD, won an Award of Merit in the Institutional category. Vanderweil Engineers provided mechanical/electrical and plumbing engineering for both projects.

The design of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, which now houses the world’s largest collection of moving images and sound recordings, involved a complex adaptive reuse of a former Federal Reserve Cold War bunker.  Protection of the six million items requires a constant 50°F 35% rh in the repositories, with the exception of the storage vaults for pre-1951 cellulose nitrate film, which is highly combustible.  These vaults are kept at a constant 39° -10.0 grains of moisture, and the motion picture storage is kept at 25° 35% rh. 

The 415,000-sq-ft complex, which was designed by SmithGroup, involved extensive renovations to the existing structure as well as the construction of a 271,000-sq-ft addition.  The facility includes the storage and preservation center, a visitor center, a teaching-conservation laboratory, four theaters, and a recorded sound laboratory with 12 sound- and vibration-proof chambers.

“The project involved highly specialized mechanical and electrical systems,” Mid-Atlantic Construction noted.  “One particular challenge on the central plant work was the installation of nine large air handlers, which had to be strategically placed in a long, narrow building that offered little access room.”

The jury also noted the challenge of the nitrate film storage vaults:  “The high-tech vaults are designed to provide multiple layers of protection for their contents against fire, smoke, and heat, including a damper system designed to withstand temperatures up to 2,500°.
The Phoenix at Clarendon Metro features 181 units of luxury apartments, 65,000 sq ft of office space, and 20,000 sq ft of retail space.  A highlight of the mixed-use development is the incorporation of a historic 1930s-era Arlington Main Post Office. The complex was designed by Dorsky Hodgson Parrish Yue.

The fast-track consolidation of the U.S. Pharmacopeia headquarters, designed by HOK, involved the construction of nearly 172,000 sq ft of laboratory and office space.