Design, timelines for $5 billion Centre Block rehab released

Parliament hill
Photo by Raymond Levielle

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The massive restoration of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block will cost up to $5 billion and construction will continue until 2032.

The iconic sandstone edifice that sits atop Parliament Hill has seen no major upgrades since 1927 and is “showing its age both inside and out,” Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in a news release last week.

Anand says repairs are urgently needed. As the project ramps up, more than 1,500 construction workers will be onsite each day.

“It is a national icon that needs to be protected so that it can continue to serve our parliamentary democracy into the next century. But more than that, it is a building for all Canadians,” she said.

Scaffolding is up around Centre Block, which includes the Peace Tower, preparing as “the largest and most complex heritage rehabilitation” in Canadian history.

This highly complex project is a monumental endeavour of rehabilitation and modernization:

  • Approximately 10 million pounds of asbestos has already been removed from the building and over 20 million pounds is expected to be removed in total.
  • Approximately 40,000 truckloads of rock has to be excavated and will be recycled in construction building materials.
  • More than 20,000 heritage assets have to be carefully restored.
  • Over 1,600 windows have to be replaced, and approximately 250 stained glass windows restored.
  • The entire Centre Block will be placed on a grid of over 500 base isolators, which will act as giant shock absorbers to separate the building from seismic shock waves in the event of an earthquake and ensure the building meets modern building codes.
  • This project builds on and draws upon lessons from a series of major projects, including the West Block and the Senate of Canada Building, all completed on time and on budget.
  • The Centre Block is approximately 3.5 times the size of the West Block and has significantly more heritage elements to be preserved and restored.

“Much of the building has now been taken down to the studs,” said Rob Wright, an assistant deputy minister in the Procurement Department, adding that kilometres of pipes are rusted and structural steel was corroded by water infiltration, which also damaged the stone — already impacted by “extreme freeze-thaw cycle.”

The rehabilitation of the Centre Block is the largest and most complex heritage rehabilitation ever seen in Canada. The building “needs to be carefully taken apart and rebuilt to integrate modern standards, including a reinforced structure, seismic upgrading, and new building and digital systems”.

The restored Centre Block will be more accessible and secure through the addition of a new Parliament Welcome Centre. The Centre Block will also be transformed from one of the government’s highest-energy users and Greenhouse gas-emitting buildings into a carbon neutral facility.

The Centre Block and the Parliament Welcome Centre are targeted for completion in 2030/2031. Parliament will conduct extensive commissioning and testing before reopening the Centre Block.

Upgrades to windows, roofs, mechanical and electrical systems and information technology make up part of the effort to modernize Centre Block to 21st-century standards of energy efficiency and accessibility.

New heating and cooling technology as well as enclosed courtyards will transform one of the government’s “worst greenhouse gas-emitting buildings to a carbon-neutral facility,” Wright said.


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