The Centre Block Gets a Facelift

The largest, most complex heritage building renovation project ever undertaken in Canada is underway, and the team at Security Through Safe Design could not be more proud to be involved. Centre Block, the heart of Ottawa’s Parliament Hill is being remodelled for the first time in its century-long history, restoring and preserving its historical elements to their original glory, while modernizing the building to meet the needs of a 21st-century Parliament for years to come.

Symbolizing Canada’s nationhood and inspiring the millions of people who have visited Parliament Hill, Centre Block is the home of the Senate and the House of Commons and an icon of Canadian democracy. Due to its exceptional significance as a national landmark, as well as the building’s detailing and ceremonial & iconographic design, the Centre Block is designated as a Classified Federal Heritage Building.

Constructed from 1916 through 1927, the current structure replaces the original Centre Block that was destroyed by fire in 1916. Originally designed in a Gothic revival style in Nepean sandstone with copper roofing and painted linen ceilings, its doors opened in 1920.

Since the building was completed, only minor repairs have been made, and short-term fixes are no longer cost-effective. Its systems are outdated, and the building suffers from ageing water pipes, damage to stained glass and sculptures, crumbling mortar and electrical & ventilation systems that aren’t up to modern needs and standards.  In the 2010 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada, it was predicted the Centre Block would experience “total failure” sometime between 2019 and 2025.

In addition to the structure itself and its systems, other issues being addressed include earthquake proofing and security. These exhaustive renovations will bring the Centre Block up to modern safety, environmental and accessibility standards while making the building functional for parliamentarians.

This complex undertaking of the Centre Block project will include the replacement of electrical, mechanical, security systems and fire safety systems and the restoration of the building’s wood, plaster, stonework, stained glass, frescos and metalwork. Security Through Safe Design will provide the security consulting services for this Project, working closely with the CENTRUS team and the various Parliamentary Stakeholders.

More than 5.5 million pounds of asbestos material have been removed from the building, along with thousands of truckloads of bedrock from the ground in front, as part of the project’s expansion of the underground Parliament Welcome Centre.

One of the largest, lengthiest and most expensive renovations in Canada, the restoration and modernization of the Centre Block is part of a group of other important projects involving the reconstruction of the Centre Block, West Block and the East Block. The Centre Block’s restoration is expected to take at least a decade to complete.