Initially, Faithful+Gould is to produce a concept design report to assess the feasibilities of the project, which has been designed by architect, Howarth Litchfield Partnership.
Since the Freedom of Information Act came into force on 1 January 2005, councils throughout the country have been considering how to improve access to preserved archives. In many cases, online access and digitisation of archival records are being considered in tandem with new document storage facilities. Faithful+Gould and Atkins have, therefore, developed a real speciality in understanding the constantly changing requirements and how best to approach them.
Project manager Rob Clarke commented, "We have built a detailed database of capital and operating costs and are able to use this to conduct feasibility studies quickly. This benchmarks all plans against other local authorities on a number of key deliverables and cost parameters. The complex and costly nature of such projects necessitates a long lead time – 5-10 years is not uncommon – and our feasibility studies help set realistic timeframes."
Faithful+Gould and Atkins have already taken on the role of lead consultant with a number of archive projects. Clients range from Essex and Surrey County Councils (both of whose Archive Centres are now complete), Ceredigion, Flintshire, Kent and East Sussex.
The company helps the lead local authority target potential partners, arrange sources of capital and liaise with the various government departments responsible for archives. These include the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which is ultimately responsible for the National Archive, and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which coordinates regeneration. Faithful+Gould and Atkins can also investigate and assist in securing alternative sources of funding such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and PFI partners. Atkins in-house technical expertise in the design of archive repositories complements this approach.
Ian Milford, Atkins technical director, says: "We believe that we fully understand the client’s culture and objectives. We learnt our business hands-on by working with irreplaceable historical documents and have given talks and run workshops for both archive professionals and building designers".
As such, the demand for modern archive centres will undoubtedly grow and with it the demand for best practice project management. Faithful+Gould and Atkins are determined to keep investing to develop the tools which enable local authorities to achieve the best possible result.
Ian Milford adds: "We have also helped to shape the future of the preservation of our written heritage by our involvement on the development of the National Standard for Archives Storage, BS5454 which outlines the requirements to preserve and store archive information in a way which is readily accessible to the public whilst ensuring its long term preservation".