A sustainable lens on Canada’s House – Centre Block

Today, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) shared more details on the renovation of the iconic Centre Block. The update drives home the immense effort underway to restore and modernize Canada’s most iconic building.

The 10-year project sets out to preserve Centre Block’s historical and architectural heritage while ensuring the structure and the new Welcome Centre can meet the needs of Canadians for generations to come. This includes embracing green building practices through their intention to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED® and Zero Carbon Building Standard™ (ZCB Standard) certification.

“The Centre Block project’s impressive approach to sustainability and heritage preservation reflects a growing shift in building practices,” said Thomas Mueller, President and CEO of the Canada Building Council (CaGBC). “Addressing environmental sustainability and carbon is the new normal for public buildings, especially retrofits. By prioritizing green building practices in their approach to the Centre Block, PSPC is making a significant investment in Canada’s future.”

At over 100 years of age, the Centre Block had seen only minor repairs. It was largely inefficient, with single pane windows, limited insulation, and inefficient mechanical systems. Major repairs were required to bring the building to modern safety, environmental, and accessibility standards, and to make it functional for both parliamentarians and visitors. As an older heritage building, the project is complex – balancing a respect for the building’s past with a vision for its future.

The rehabilitation of Centre Block will address sustainability, energy efficiency and climate resilience as well as accessibility. Innovative new approaches were explored to select and source sustainable materials and to improve the building envelope. Designed to minimize impact to the building’s impressive stone façade, the envelop improvements include new windows and the addition of insulation to reduce air infiltration for better energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

The building’s new mechanical systems will also improve efficiency by capturing and repurposing waste heat, while potable water demand will be reduced through the use of rainwater and greywater for non-potable uses, like toilets or landscaping needs. When completed, PSPC estimates that the renovations will see energy consumption reduced by at least 75 per cent, and water consumption by over 50 per cent.

As a result of its many sustainability features, the Centre Block project aims to pursue LEED and the ZCB Standard certification. LEED offers a holistic path to address key aspects of green building, including sustainable site developments, efficient use of water and energy, healthy materials, improved indoor air quality and occupant comfort and more. The ZCB Standard focuses primarily on the reduction of both operational and embodied carbon associated with a building – an important consideration for meeting Canada’s 2030 and 2050 climate targets.

“This project supports the Government of Canada’s commitment to a carbon neutral building portfolio,” said Mueller. “Centre Block shows that “carbon neutral” isn’t just talk – the government is taking direct action and leading the way. By investing in sustainable, zero-carbon buildings, the government can play an active role in driving innovation, creating jobs, and setting Canada on the path towards a resilient and low-carbon economy.”

Currently the project employs an average of 400 employees each day, and PSPC estimates that the project will ultimately create over 70,000 jobs. In Canada’s Green Building Engine report, CaGBC showed the growth of the green building sector and its potential for job creation – 1.5 million jobs by 2030 under a green recovery scenario that includes government investment and progressive policies.

The Centre Block has the distinction of being the largest, most complex heritage rehabilitation project ever seen in Canada, and could be one of the largest in the world. What is clear from the rebirth of this 100-year old landmark is that environmentally sustainable, green retrofits are possible for any building.

“The Centre Block project is a watershed moment in green building,” said Mueller. “It showcases our technical capacity to build and retrofit to the highest possible standards at a national and international level. It reflects our collective priorities as Canadians – action on environment, climate change and inclusivity through accessibility. It’s an approach that will ensure the Centre Block remains Canada’s House for generations to come.”

Read the PSPC press release. 

For media inquiries contact media@cagbc.org.