Feature stories, photos, and videos—The Long Term Vision and Plan Annual Report 2015 to 2016

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Sustaining the future—the Wellington Building

Preserving and repurposing heritage buildings—rather than demolishing and building new—is not only a heritage issue, it is an environmental issue as well. New construction is often presented as being "greener" by incorporating new, environmentally-friendly features when, in fact, it is often the least environmentally-responsible option. Heritage buildings offer quality construction and materials and rehabilitating them for renewed uses achieves important cultural objectives, while reducing waste and conserving energy.

But preserving the heritage building is only the first green step. How the rehabilitation work is undertaken and the energy systems installed for future operations are all critical factors in reducing environmental impacts, conserving valuable natural resources and contributing to carbon-reducing goals.

The intent of the Long Term Vision and Plan (LTVP) is to restore and modernize the heritage buildings in the Parliamentary Precinct in ways that improve their sustainability and performance. The Parliamentary Precinct Branch (PPB) is committed to achieving meaningful environmental targets in all projects. These include:

The rehabilitation of the Wellington Building is a model for putting these objectives and targets into practice. Over the last six years, the Wellington Building has undergone a complete rehabilitation and has been repurposed for core parliamentary functions. Twice the size of the West Block, the Wellington Building is a substantial structure and now accommodates 70 parliamentary office units, 10 committee rooms with public access and state-of-the-art translation and communication facilities, and a satellite library for parliamentarians.

The rehabilitation included the abatement of hazardous substances (including 2,800 metric tonnes of asbestos-containing material), seismic and building code upgrades, the replacement of all building systems, and the reconstruction of floor plates to accommodate new parliamentary uses. In every aspect of the work, sustainability considerations were at the forefront.

During the demolition phase, an incredible 97% of non-contaminated waste was either reused or recycled and diverted from landfills, far exceeding the Department's target of 80%. Masonry and marble were reused; even copper recycled from the roof was transformed to create dozens of decorative, sound-mitigating panels in the new library.

The Wellington Building incorporates a comprehensive suite of energy-saving and environmental features including:

In addition to this, a large wall of living plant material will greet visitors as they enter the public atrium of the "new" Wellington Building—a feature that will improve air quality and provide noise abatement, and a symbol of PPB's ongoing commitment to sustainable development.

Old techniques meet new technology

The craftsmen who originally built the Parliament Buildings in the 1860s—architects, stonemasons, carpenters, metalworkers—would be astonished to see how the rehabilitation of these beautiful, historic buildings is done today. Specialized skills and outstanding craftsmanship remain essential, but the workers' toolkits now include cutting-edge technology alongside the traditional tools of the trade. These new tools allow for greater efficiency and accuracy and offer entirely new capabilities.

The idea of using laser and computer technology to repair heritage masonry buildings and sculptures seems, at first glance, a little surprising. The key is knowing when and how to make the best use of these new tools so that technology is embraced to its greatest effect without losing the human touch of the original artisans and of those who are painstakingly restoring these buildings for future generations of Canadians.

The stones need to breathe

The West Block stonework is a rich blend of colour and texture. The rustic finish of the locally quarried Nepean sandstone combines masterfully with the smooth, finely finished Ohio Berea sandstone and the distinctive red Potsdam stone. Unfortunately, 150 years of sulphur, smoke and dirt have darkened the stones, obscuring their colour and architectural detailing and threatening their stability.

Traditionally, the stones would be cleaned with abrasive techniques using air, water or steam. Hazardous and messy work, this invasive approach can actually damage the stone through over-cleaning and water saturation, destroying the protective layer and details, and exposing the stones to further deterioration.

Laser technology offers a 21st century solution for a medieval craft. Using a highly focussed, powerful light source, the stonemasons simply vaporise the dirt without any physical contact. Unlike the wet abrasive methods that require a carefully sequenced approach so that chemical and water waste does not flow over previously cleaned stones, laser cleaning allows larger surfaces to be cleaned uniformly, at any time and at any location. It is a convenient, flexible and vastly superior approach, and now a standard tool in the stonemason's kit right beside the traditional trowel.

Lasers, robots and the Dominion sculptor

Fanciful stone carvings of human and animal figures and ancient creatures stare down from the outer walls of the Parliament Buildings. Like the stone masonry of these buildings, the sculptural elements have also suffered from the stress of time, pollution and structural pressure. Many require restoration or complete replacement.

Digital technology offers a new way to approach this heritage restoration work. In partnership with Carleton University's Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has recently combined digital scanning and fabrication technologies with the gifted handwork of the Dominion Sculptor to replace a badly deteriorated sandstone relief sculpture on the East Block.

The process involved a number of steps. First, using laser scanning and photogrammetry (taking measurements using photographs), Carleton University created a three-dimensional digital image of the existing deteriorated sculpture. The digital image was then used to fabricate a model of the damaged sculpture—dents, chips, missing pieces and all. Phil White, the Dominion Sculptor, "restored" the model by repairing the deteriorated areas and filling in the lost pieces to create a complete model for the replacement sculpture.

The restored model was scanned again to create a second digital image. Using this digital file, robotic machinery milled a complete replacement sculpture out of a slab of sandstone. While the new machine-milled sculpture is accurate in terms of scale and dimensions, it lacks the feel and traditional finish of hand carving. So the Dominion Sculptor completed the carving, recreating the original finish and adding life to the sculpture using the same tools and techniques employed in 1910 when the sandstone relief was first carved.

Digitally-assisted carving replicates the same principles and steps as the 17th-century hand-carving process, but does it much faster and with decreased costs. Asked how he viewed the use of digital technologies to support his ancient craft, Mr. White was confident that these new techniques do not replace traditional skills.

"In some ways these technologies simply replace the time-consuming work of preparing the stone. The creative design and final execution still need the touch of a skilled sculptor. We need both. The key is knowing when it makes sense to use the digital tools economically and creatively."

Modeling Centre Block

Digital technology is revolutionizing the way buildings are planned, designed, built and managed. Design and construction industries are rapidly moving away from the use of traditional two-dimensional drawings to more powerful, interactive three-dimensional design models called Building Information Modeling (BIM). Used extensively in new construction, Carleton University is at the forefront of developing BIM applications for large heritage rehabilitation projects, a particularly challenging task since so much of the original building information is lost or unknown.

In partnership with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), Carleton University's Immersive Media Studio (CIMS) is using BIM technology to create a model Centre Block and establish a sound knowledge base for the massive rehabilitation that is planned. The model draws on various old and new information sources, including:

The digital model merges all available information, including structural and architectural components, as well as buildings systems and infrastructure. It provides an accurate, integrated, three-dimensional image of the building that can be augmented as new information is acquired and changes are made to the building. In effect, it becomes a living model for the building that evolves with time and facilitates good decision-making over the life of the building.

Bestowed with honours—the Sir John A. Macdonald Building

It is especially rewarding when projects are recognized by peers in the broader community for the quality of the work and the significant contribution they make. The Sir John A. Macdonald Building, completed in fiscal year 2014 to 2015, has received critical acclaim and recently won several awards. It has been recognized by a number of organizations for its outstanding design, its contribution to the public space, and its sensitivity and creativity in preserving heritage qualities while introducing a contemporary use—all key objectives of the Long Term Vision and Plan's vision and guiding principles.


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