Building a sustainable capital for Canada

Catherinekelly (1)

Catherine Kelly


Ottawa's government buildings are going through a major refurbishment programme that is driving sustainable innovation, skills and green growth, and the upgrading of the Centre Block is in the vanguard.

The Canadian government has set out a vision for a greener future as it continues to steer the nation along its trajectory of solid economic growth. Its 2030 carbon emissions reduction plan targets an overall reduction across the economy of at least 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050.

Progress towards sustainable ambitions is being driven on many fronts, for example, new national construction codes introduced in March allow encapsulated mass timber construction up to 12 storeys. Notably, the government is leading by example with a major investment in the upgrading of its own parliamentary and judicial precincts in Ottawa.

Under its Long Term Vision and Plan (LTVP), heritage buildings are being restored and brought up to date and advanced technologies adopted to create a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable parliamentary estate. Alongside this, the district heating and cooling system serving federal buildings in the Ottawa region is being made cleaner and greener.

These projects are designed to help the government department responsible for real estate management, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), meet its pledge to achieve carbon neutrality in its real estate portfolio by 2050, in line with the government’s vision.

Cleaner, greener heating and cooling

The modernisation of the aged district energy system demonstrates how the government is working to drive cost-effective, sustainable and innovative solutions. Upgrading of the system, which provides heating to 80 federal buildings and cooling to 67, is expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60 percent.

The Energy Services Acquisition Programme (ESAP) will see the heating system converted to a more energy-efficient, low-temperature hot water network and the Ottawa River helping to chill water for cooling. In the future, the heating system could move to greener renewable energy sources.

Towards more sustainable buildings

Ottawa’s Parliamentary and Judicial Precincts contain 35 Crown-owned buildings, many of which are more than a century old with 28 being designated heritage buildings. Four major buildings have already been upgraded under the LTVP and the biggest project to date is in progress, which is the sustainable refurbishment of Centre Block, Canada’s main parliamentary building.

Here, PSPC has identified wide-ranging sustainability priorities, including promoting health and wellness through environmental quality, climate resilience, carbon neutrality and environmental and resource stewardship.

Environmental targets sit alongside social objectives, which include engagement with indigenous peoples during project delivery, enhancing building users’ experience through the application of technology and systems and increasing accessibility for all ages and sectors of society.

Expected to cost around $5bn and take almost a decade to complete, renovation of the iconic gothic revival Centre Block will ensure its Nepean sandstone exterior and other precious features – some up to a century old - will be safeguarded for the future.

At the same time, earthquake resistance and fire safety are being brought up to modern standards, mechanical and electrical services replaced and an advanced digital infrastructure added.

For a project of this duration, it is inevitable that technologies and client requirements will evolve throughout delivery. Flexibility has been designed into the project and the potential impact of technological advances, in key areas like mechanical and electrical plant, is already being considered.

Inevitably given its stature, this project has many stakeholders, including parliamentary partners and an independent architectural review panel of leading architects, and cost management and analysis and reporting tools are essential to not only managing but also communicating cost, time and risk.

Our Ottawa office is supporting PSPC on the Centre Block Rehabilitation Program, as well as a number of other high-profile programmes across the city.

Growing skills, innovation and the market

Centre Block is a trailblazer, demonstrating how heritage buildings can be made more sustainable and inclusive and at the same time providing a catalyst for the development and application of a range of skills and technologies.

We are leading the project controls function including cost, time, risk and reporting services, alongside more than 500 companies already working on the multi-billion programme from across Canada.

The programme will increase the construction market in Ottawa, and it is hoped, generate a legacy of craftsmen and women – particularly Indigenous peoples - who will continue working in the Parliamentary Precinct for decades to come.

Demonstration of approaches, technologies and innovations here will encourage others across Canada to follow the government’s lead, ensuring that both new build and refurbishment activity plays its part in tackling climate change and driving sustainable growth.

For further information contact:

Catherinekelly (1)

Catherine Kelly

t: +1 613 221 9560