Svalbard Global Seed Vault: Construction of the year 2008

Svalbard Global Seed Vault: The Entry. Photo: Mari Tefre/Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Svalbard Global Seed Vault: The Entry. Photo: Mari Tefre/Svalbard Global Seed Vault


The Norwegian construction company Leonhard Nilsen & Sønner, that built Svalbard Global Seed Vault, recently received the prize for best Construction 2008 during “Byggedagene” in Oslo, Norway.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault lies about 1 kilometre 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.

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. The artistic decoration is made by the Norwegian artist Dyveke Sanne.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is financed by three Norwegian Ministries:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The Seed Vault is built and technically operated by The Directorate of Public Construction and Property. 


The Norwegian American

Published since May 17, 1889 PO Box 30863 Seattle WA 98113 Tel: (206) 784-4617 • Email:

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