Canadian Consulting Engineer

Canada’s Parliament buildings start overhaul

Work is under way on the West Block, one of the three buildings that make up Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Together with the more famous Centre Block, and  the East Block, the Victorian Gothic-style buildings are the iconic face of Canada.

August 22, 2011   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Work is under way on the West Block, one of the three buildings that make up Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Together with the more famous Centre Block, and  the East Block, the Victorian Gothic-style buildings are the iconic face of Canada.

The West Block (on Wellington Street, to the left of Centre Block) was vacated earlier this year to make way for the demolition preparations. Built in 1859, the block includes two towers  — the Mackenzie Tower added in 1878, and the Laurier Tower added in 1906.

Part of the program at the West Block is to build a new infill structure in the courtyard which will serve as a temporary chamber for the House of Commons. The House will have to move there when renovations to the Centre Block begin. Eventually, the infill space will become committee rooms.

The entire West Block is said to be badly deteriorated and is to receive a “stern-to-stern” overhaul. PCL Constructors were awarded a construction management contract in July for the first phase, estimated at $359 million.

The architects are ARCOP Group and Fournier Gersovitz Moss in joint venture. ARCOP/FGM have engaged Ojdrovic Engineering and Cook Engineering as structural engineers, and Crossey Engineering as mechanical-electrical engineers. Heritage consultants are Keith Blades Conservation Consulting for the masonry and Craig Sims for the metal.

The building’s load-bearing masonry walls are the most urgently in need of attention, requiring seismic reinforcement and reinforcement. Almost half of the original stones will need to be removed while the core of the walls are repaired. Each stone will be numbered and repaired, or replaced. As well are being rehabilitated, and the entire mechanical, electrical and safety systems are being replaced to bring them up to code.

It will be 2017 before the full renovations on the West Block are completed.

The renovations are a component of a bigger plan for the Parliamentary precinct, which is intended to preserve the heritage aspects of the buildings, but  add new facilities and bring them up to current code requirements.


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