City + Country Portraits

Nature´s Arc

An inter-ministerial steering committee is given responsibility for the establishment of the Seed Vault. The project is managed by the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

The Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, of Environment and of Agriculture and Food, have joined forces to provide NOK 45 million to construct the seed vault.

The Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property is responsible for the construction and technical maintenance of the Vault. The Nordic Gene Bank has the administrative responsibility for the management and operations of the Vault.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is a major partner involved in all aspects of the project. It is funding the operations of the Seed Vault and organizing and funding shipment of seeds from developing countries to Svalbard.

An international council will monitor the activities of the Seed Vault to ensure user

Svalbard Global Seed Vault lies about 1 km from Longyearbyen Airport as the crow flies, at about 130 metres above sea level and consists entirely of an underground facility, blasted out of the permafrost (at about minus 3-4 degrees Celsius). The facility is designed to have an almost “endless” lifetime.

Takes climate change into account
The location takes into account all known scenarios for rising sea level caused by global climate changes. The facility has also been located so deep inside the mountain that any possible changes to Svalbard’s climate, which we know about today, will not affect the efficacy of the permafrost. This will be a temporary temperature back up in the event of technical failure, such as loss of power supplies for a period.

Three underground chambers
The facility consists of three separate underground chambers. Each chamber has the capacity to store 1,5 million different seed samples. With the aid of its own electric machinery, powered by electricity from the local power station, it will maintain a constant interior temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius. The chambers will have storage shelving for prepacked examples of food seeds from the depositors (donor countries).

The storage chambers themselves are reached via an access tunnel about 100 metres long, with an entrance portal on its outside. The entrance portal will be the only visible part of the facility. It is in the form of a long, narrow concrete “fin”, with an entrance of brushed steel. An artistic decoration on the outer roof surface and on the upper part of the front will partly reflect the polar light and partly give off a muted, glowing light.

Well secured
The outer half of the entrance tunnel is constructed as a steel pipe with a diameter of about 5 metres. This will pass through the layer of snow and ice and the loose rocks, into solid mountain. The innermost part and the storage chambers will be blasted out of the mountain using tunnel drilling and rock blasting techniques. The mountain is secured with bolts and spray concrete. The permafrost will also contribute to stability. The interior floor is of asphalt. There is electric lighting throughout and the facility will be secured against forced entry and will have TV surveillance.

Areas for filing and other administrative work of a temporary nature will be located beside the entrance tunnel. These will be heated to normal room temperature whilst work is going on.

The total floor area of the facility is just under 1,000 square metres.

Planning of the facility has been done by the consultancy firm Barlindhaug Consult AS of Tromsø, with an office in Longyearbyen. Multiconsult AS has contributed geotechnics and landscape architecture. The architectural design was produced by Peter W. Søderman MNAL, of Barlindhaug Consult.

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