Restoring and modernizing the Senate of Canada Building

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Project photos

See the photos taken during the restoration and modernization project. For more pictures, visit our Senate of Canada Building photo gallery.

Visit the Senate’s webpage about the Senate of Canada Building.

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) restored and modernized the building now known as the Senate of Canada Building to serve as the interim home to the Senate. The Senate will occupy the space starting early in 2019 while its permanent home, Parliament Hill’s Centre Block, undergoes its first significant overhaul since it was completed in the 1920s.

The building, which used to be known as the Government Conference Centre (GCC), is close to Parliament Hill, located in downtown Ottawa at 2 Rideau Street.

In December 2018, the GCC was renamed the Senate of Canada Building.

The building was constructed between 1909 and 1912 and was Ottawa's central train station until 1966. It was converted into the GCC in 1968, with the work completed in 1973. Read more about the history and architecture of the Senate of Canada Building.

There were other limited changes to the building in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it remained largely in its original state and was in critical need of rehabilitation by the time restoration began in late 2014 under the government’s Long Term Vision and Plan for the Parliamentary Precinct. The project created or sustained about 1,400 jobs. Among others, it employed architects, engineers, skilled trades workers and construction workers.

Watch this video to discover this monumental building’s most recent transformation from the GCC to the new home of the Senate of Canada.

Video: Transforming the Government Conference Centre

Visit our Senate of Canada Building photo gallery to see before and after pictures of the building’s transformation.

Building features

The Senate of Canada Building has been fit up with:

  • the interim Senate Chamber
  • 3 committee rooms
  • offices for Senate leadership and legislative functions
  • support space
  • modern information technology and multimedia facilities
  • an accessible, barrier-free path on all levels, including the public viewing gallery in the Senate Chamber
A room with a high vaulted ceiling and a decorative clock.

The interim Senate Chamber

The building is a good fit for the Senate, offering modern, efficient spaces for Senate use. The interim Senate Chamber is in what used to be the train station’s concourse. The design takes full advantage of the room’s high ceilings and prominently features a heritage skylight and plaster ceiling.

Senate functions are being relocated to the Senate of Canada Building, as well as to leased space close to the East Block.

Restoration and modernization project

PSPC worked hard to restore the building to its original grandeur while modernizing and adapting it to its new use as the interim home of the Senate.

PSPC restored heritage elements such as:

The restoration and modernization work included:

A black and white architectural sketch of the Senate of Canada Building with three additions highlighted in blue.

East addition

When the train station was built in 1912, there was a hotel attached to it on the east side. The neighbouring hotel was later demolished, leaving a bare exterior wall. As part of the rehabilitation project, PSPC added a new addition to that part of the building. The facade of the addition complements the Beaux-Arts style of the rest of the building.

Video: Take a guided tour of the Government Conference Centre during construction

Watch this video to learn about some of the work that was done.

Interesting facts

When the former train station was converted into the GCC, much of the work was done quickly without a lot of planning. This resulted in an inefficient use of space and a layout that was difficult to navigate. In some rooms:

As part of the project, many of the original finishes were rehabilitated.

Urban beehive initiative

PSPC has partnered with the Senate of Canada and the Fairmont Château Laurier to install Ottawa’s first urban beehives on a federally owned building. Through this partnership, the Château Laurier will maintain and collect honey from the hives. The hives will be installed on the east side of the Senate of Canada Building in 2019.

This initiative is one of the many sustainable features used in the overall modernization of the Parliamentary Precinct.

Greening the Senate of Canada Building

Choosing to keep the existing landmark building, rather than demolish and start anew, benefits the public as well as the environment.

PSPC conserved the original building materials wherever possible. This means fewer new materials were needed and less waste ended up in landfills. The department salvaged as many heritage materials as possible. For example, workers removed, refinished and reused:

They also repurposed:

More than 90% of construction waste from the project has been diverted from landfills. This is well above the project’s target of 80% diversion. New construction materials that were used met specific criteria for recycled content and life cycle.

As part of the project, PSPC included several environmentally sustainable and energy-saving features in the Senate of Canada Building. Green features include:

Making the building more accessible

The Senate of Canada Building was constructed before accessibility standards existed. As part of the project, it was upgraded to add features such as a barrier-free path of travel, and accessible elevators and washrooms. These features will improve accessibility and ensure that the building meets or exceeds current accessibility standards.

PSPC is striving to become a leader and model in making this important space accessible. By ensuring barrier-free access throughout, PSPC is making it easier for all Canadians to engage in our parliamentary democracy. 

Watch the video to see how PSPC has made the newly restored and modernized Senate of Canada Building and West Block more accessible for everyone.

Video: Improved accessibility in the Parliamentary Precinct

Project details

Here is a snapshot of the rehabilitation of the Senate of Canada Building:

More information

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