Centre Block renovation to take until at least 2030 to complete, cost up to $5B
OTTAWA -- The massive ongoing renovation of Parliament Hill, centred on revitalizing and reworking Centre Block as the crown jewel of Canadian democracy, is expected to take until at least 2030 and cost up to $5 billion to complete.
On Thursday, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) released the final design, scope, and anticipated timelines for completing the project, saying that the current estimate is that it will cost between $4.5 billion and $5 billion.
Citing the ongoing risk of unforeseen complications, PSPC said that the “major construction” is anticipated to be completed within the 2030-31 year. Though, it could be another year before officials can move back in because “significant” testing will be needed to make sure the chambers and committee rooms are ready to be used, once the renovation is complete.
After more than a decade of planning, work is already underway with the iconic building covered in scaffolding and brought down to its studs inside in the most comprehensive update to the building since it was built a century ago.
“While the building may have remained beautiful to look at, its facilities were critically outdated and systems were failing,” said Rob Wright, the assistant deputy minister at PSPC who is responsible for the parliamentary precinct.
He told reporters Thursday that so far, COVID-19 hasn’t had much of an impact on the work, with safety protocols in place for workers—with up to 1,500 on-site daily at the peak of the work— though the costs of materials may be impacted by the pandemic demand.
A third-party assessment found a “high level of confidence” in the federal government’s cost and timing estimates, “provided no major functional program changes occur or extreme rates of escalation are not experienced.”
Officials have characterized it as the “largest and most complex heritage rehabilitation ever seen in Canada.” The extensive project includes taking out, restoring, and reinstalling integral historic features of the building, while layering in modern updates, including new multimedia and security features.
In unveiling the plans, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand defended the cost, saying that while it is a “significant investment,” it is “necessary,” and pointed out that PSPC has delivered other major projects within the parliamentary precinct on time and on budget.
“The foremost building in Canada's parliamentary precinct holds special meaning to Canadians, visitors, and parliamentarians, as a symbol of Canada's democracy. It is a national icon that needs to be protected so that it can continue to serve our parliamentary democracy into the next century,” Anand said.
Source: Government of Canada
Framed as work that is needed to ensure Centre Block can meet “the needs of a 21st-century Parliament and is accessible to Canadians and visitors for generations to come,” PSPC officials presented extensive plans for the energy efficiency, accessibility, seismic, and architectural work to be done.
This includes examples of the damage found, the mock-ups of what the space will look like once it’s open again to Canadians a decade from now, and how the front lawn of Parliament Hill will change to accommodate a new Parliament Welcome Centre.
The welcome centre will be where visitors will now enter into the building from, and 40,000 truckloads of bedrock is being excavated to create this new structure between the building and the lawn.
Source: Government of Canada
Anand announced Thursday that the welcome centre will include a permanent display of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is currently sitting in storage.
It’s being promised by PSPC that the renovation will result in transforming the “largest energy consumer and greenhouse gas emitter” within PSPC’s portfolio of federal buildings into a carbon-neutral facility with significant reductions to energy and water consumption.
This will involve swapping the single-pane windows for energy-efficient alternatives; updating outdated mechanical, heating and cooling systems; and replacing more than 20 million of pounds of asbestos with proper insulation.
In terms of accessibility upgrades that PSPC is planning to include in the more than a decade-long revamp, there will be new grab bars, tactile indicators like braille signage, touch-free door openers, lower reception counters, and modified listening devices inside the chamber for those with hearing impairments.
As part of the heritage and cultural preservation aspect, conservation experts have been brought on board and have been asked to keep a few key goals in mind, including conserving “the heritage value and symbolic meaning of Parliament Hill and Centre Block as the physical expression of Canada’s history, identity, and parliamentary democracy.”
A major focus in the initial renovation work that has already been completed is the cataloguing, protecting some 20,000 heritage assets, including: 400 historic windows; 250 stained glass windows; as well as 85 paintings, frescoes, and murals, according to officials. Numerous other design elements, such as the wood flooring, marble columns, and stairwell railings, have been covered up to avoid damage.
The former architect of the U.S. Capitol contributed input, officials said, and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the National Capital Commission have also been engaged throughout the process.
Centre Block is home to both the House of Commons Chamber and the Senate Chamber, but parliamentarians officially moved out of the building in late 2018. Federal politicians will now will spend at least the next 10 years working out of the “temporary” West Block and Senate of Canada buildings located down the street from one another within the parliamentary precinct in downtown Ottawa.
Source: Government of Canada
The department said it is still consulting with the House of Commons and Senate on key aspects of the design, including security and the seating arrangements inside the chamber.
“For us, the members of Parliament who serve our constituents, the Parliament building is our town hall, our office, our home away from home, a place of reflection and reverence, and it is our duty to safeguard this space for parliamentarians and for all Canadians, today and in the future,” said House Speaker Anthony Rota in a statement.