National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program

Facility Design, Infrastructure, Storage, Location, and Access

Requirements, quality, and funding for repository facilities can vary widely. These facilities range from environmentally controlled facilities such as the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL), to the non-climate controlled sample storage facilities similar to the one operated by the Florida Geological Survey, both of which serve clients and protect holdings in an appropriate manner suited to the materials they are preserving.  

Issues and Solutions Concerning Facility Design, Infrastructure, Storage, Location, and Access

Facilities Costs

Renting or Owning

Facilities costs related to property acquisition or rent may be a large item in repository budgets.  In cases where facilities are rented a repository may experience continual pressure to cut costs by physically contracting, or by deaccessing portions of holdings to save space.  If land or warehouse space for physical facilities is owned outright by a repository or its parent organization, such pressures may be eliminated or successfully resisted.  In some parts of the country, land for repositories may be acquired by state agencies by means of federal-to-state land grants.   The Alaska Geological Materials Center is on land that is owned, not rented. Although budget constraints have been a long term element of their situation, their holdings have not contracted, and their stability, known to clients, has been a bargaining point in acquiring donations both of new holdings and new storage modules (e.g., Connex shipping containers) from corporate clients, and the prospect of refrigerated storage modules (for sediment cores) from Alaska native corporations.  

In the federal government, the NICL and the Core Research Center (CRC) are obligated to pay rents, based on area and use classification, to the General Services Administration.  Rates are nominally in line with local commercial rates, but the factual basis of this is widely questioned, and the rent component of total budgets is substantial.  However, the high fractional overhead rates levied by university repositories on funds from supporting agencies may effectively elevate the nominally-low space or rental charges that are listed for such facilities.

Keeping the Lights On

Some technological modifications to facilities may be absolute improvements and of financial benefit.  LED or high-efficiency fluorescent lighting systems, to replace incandescent bulbs, may pay substantial benefits in electric power consumption for both lighting and air conditioning, important in the modern context of high energy costs and pressures for conservation.

Accomodating Growing Collections

Expansion plans for repository facilities are constrained to very different degrees, according to the funding needs of new facilities and advanced knowledge of growing collections.  Facilities such as the NICL are required to plan and present expansion plans and solutions often years in advance, because of both magnitude of funding and complexity of contracting and planning for the construction of specialized new facilities that are required to preserve their collections. Dry rock cores might be accommodated in much less specialized facilities, usually requiring less advanced planning.  

How can you contribute?

If you have any success stories, suggestions, or contributions you would like to share, please send an email to the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program at  We will work with you to highlight your best practices and share them online.