Latest progress on the Centre Block project
Work is underway to restore and modernize the Centre Block, the most iconic and impressive of the Parliament buildings. Today, the Centre Block is a busy construction site with lots of activity inside and out.
See what’s happening outside in real time: View the Hill Cam
On this page
- Parliament Welcome Centre
- The Centre Block building
- Creating a digital map
- Video: Construction update, spring 2022
- Related links
Parliament Welcome Centre
We are expanding the underground Parliament Welcome Centre to provide a more welcoming experience for visitors. It will also provide additional space for parliamentary functions. The new centre will span the length of the Centre Block, connecting it to the East and West Blocks on either side.
In spring 2020, we began digging down into the bedrock in front of the Centre Block, removing the rock and making space to build the new underground structure.
Vaux Wall removal
To allow excavation to begin, we took apart the Vaux Wall, which was the stone retaining wall that flanked both sides of the stairway leading to the Centre Block. The Vaux Wall is named for the famous landscape architect Calvert Vaux, who also co-designed the city of New York’s Central Park. Vaux designed the plan for the public grounds on Parliament Hill in the 1870s.
We carefully labelled each stone and recorded where it lay, then took the wall apart and cleaned the pieces. The stones will be in storage until it is time to re-build the wall.
The Centre Block building
Preparing the interior of the building
We carefully removed heritage elements, such as stained glass windows; wood panelling and marble in office spaces and the linen ceiling in the House of Commons Chamber, to ensure they are safe. Then, we will remove interior finishes and bring parts of the building down to their bare bones. This step is called “demolition and abatement.”
The “demolition” refers to removing interior finishes, like floors, ceilings and walls. “Abatement” refers to identifying, segregating and disposing of any hazardous materials.
Work is underway throughout the building, but not all areas will be demolished or abated to the same degree. The majestic spaces in the main public areas, for example, the Senate Chamber, the House of Commons Chamber and the Hall of Honour, will receive careful attention. Important heritage and architectural elements will either be removed and stored or protected and preserved in place while construction continues around them.
Protecting heritage elements
To prepare for construction, all heritage assets were carefully removed, put into crates and then safely stored for the duration of the project. This includes:
- heritage flooring
Heritage elements that cannot be removed were covered and protected. For example, we covered an ornate staircase in the House of Commons foyer to protect it.
Preparing the exterior of the building
A key aspect of the Centre Block project is restoring the building’s heritage masonry. Over the years, Ottawa’s extreme weather conditions deteriorated the masonry. About 35% of the building’s 400,000 stones must be removed for repair or replacement. To do this work safely, we will install scaffolding and tarping around the building. This work is being conducted in collaboration with Parliament.
We will install decorative tarps printed with a realistic image of the Centre Block. These types of tarps are known as a “trompe l'oeil,” which translates to “trick of the eye.” We are installing the tarps to:
- hide the visible impacts of construction activities
- protect workers against the elements such as wind, rain, and snow
- ensure visitors can continue to see the Centre Block
The image of the Peace Tower clock on the trompe l’oeil will be set to 11:45 a.m. This represents the start time of the ceremony in 1927 to inaugurate the Peace Tower.
We will begin installing the trompe l’oeil in spring 2022, starting with the north façade. We will then extend around the other façades of the building as the masonry work progresses.
Safeguarding the Library of Parliament
The Library of Parliament in the Centre Block was renovated from 2002 to 2006 but requires some maintenance and upgrades before reopening. Due to the extensive renovations taking place outside its doors, it will remain closed for the duration of the Centre Block project.
While some items from its collection were relocated to Library branch locations across the Parliamentary Precinct, most of its collection is now housed in the Library’s facility at 45 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard in Gatineau, Quebec.
The branch of the Library of Parliament at 125 Sparks Street is operating as the interim main branch while the Centre Block is closed.
Once the Centre Block and the new Parliament Welcome Centre are completed, the Library in the Centre Block will reopen and the Visitor Experience Program will return to the Centre Block.
Protecting the Centre Block from earthquakes
The Centre Block is located in an active earthquake zone. Its original structure does not provide sufficient protection against earthquakes. To meet modern seismic standards, the building needed to be made safer and more resilient.
The least expensive and most effective solution that avoids harming the building’s heritage fabric is base isolation. Base isolation involves separating the Centre Block from the Canadian Shield foundation and placing it on more than 500 base isolators, which essentially act as large shock absorbers.
We are using base isolation technology to ensure that the Centre Block and the Peace Tower can meet the required building code. They are being retrofitted to withstand a magnitude 6.0 earthquake.
How we are preparing the Centre Block to withstand earthquakes
Creating a digital map
We created a digital model of the entire Centre Block building. Information about the building is recorded and digitized into what is referred to as a building information model (BIM). The BIM helps everyone involved in the project understand and keep track of the work that has been done and the work that remains to be done.
The BIM includes databases, photographs and reports that capture information about the various building elements and turn it into a 3D model.
We worked with Carleton University’s Immersive Media Studio (CIMS) to create a 3D model that shows where all the building’s components and systems are located. These include elements like light fixtures, walls, wiring, ductwork and plumbing.
The BIM supports the design process and helps in planning construction. We continue to work with the design team to improve the model so that it captures the different states of the Centre Block as the work progresses. The details about the new mechanical, electrical, ventilation, plumbing and other systems we install in the Centre Block will all go into the BIM. This will make it much easier to service and maintain the systems for years to come.
Video: Construction update, spring 2022
Video: 2021 Centre Block project construction update
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