Passive preservation

A new storage building for collections and records in the care of Imperial War Museums (IWM) is now ready for use, following the completion of an innovative design and build process led by project manager Fraser Randall, architect firm Architype and contractor group, Fabrite.



WM’s responsibility to preserve over 100 years’ worth of collections for future generations in the best possible environmental conditions and in line with the highest standards of best practice was the catalyst for commissioning the new building.

The new facility will bring together over 14,000 linear meters of IWM’s collections into one central repository on the historical conservation area at IWM Duxford. The new store will hold one of the world’s most important collections of artworks, photographs, letters and diaries covering the history of warfare during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The single-storey singular box form is designed to complement the existing historic buildings on the site at IWM Duxford. Though simple in form, the oxidised steel facade offers thoughtful detail, consisting of ground-to-roof panels that signify each year of archived collections from 1914 onwards. Perforations in panels denote the quantity of collected documentation, with noteworthy years around wartimes being heavily perforated in accordance with the volume collected. The plain and uninterrupted patina of the oxidised steel complements the colour and texture of the historic brickwork on the site.

To ensure the long-term preservation of the collections, it is critical that the environmental conditions of the building remained very stable and well within the optimal tolerances for temperature and humidity. Traditionally, this has been achieved through a finely-tuned balance of complex building services. A Passivhaus strategy offered IWM an opportunity to use a low energy method that guaranteed stable environmental conditions for significantly lower running costs.

The repository is the second completed Passivhaus archive (awaiting certification) for architect firm Architype, benefitting from lessons learned to produce a highly refined and efficient building. As such, the new archive building boasts the world record for an airtightness result of 0.03ach; as well as incorporating pioneering strategic differences from common structural approaches and design strategies.

The new facility is designed to provide for up to 30 years’ expansion of IWM’s unique collections, which tell the human stories of lives engulfed in war and show how conflict has shaped the world in which we all live. The innovative new building will support IWM’s mission to preserve these stories and help future generations to better understand the causes, course and consequences of war.

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

Its unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, it tells vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. IWM challenges people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.

Share this article

Login to post comments

About us

Future Constructor & Architect is a specification platform for architects and building contractors, which focuses on top-end domestic and commercial developments.

As well as timely industry comment and legislation updates, the magazine covers recent projects and reviews the latest sustainable building products on the market. Subscribe here.

Privacy policy

Latest updates


Sign up below to receive our weekly building product updates e-newsletter and our monthly digital magazine editions from FC&A via email: