The CANADIAN PRESS
A massive overhaul of Centre Block on Parliament Hill is expected to be completed by 2031 and open to the public by 2032.
Rob Wright, an assistant deputy minister at Public Services and Procurement Canada, says structural strengthening and heritage restoration is currently underway.
A new three-level welcome centre is being built underneath the building and around the core of the Peace Tower.
Wright says crews are digging 23 metres deep to clear space for the 32,000-square-metre centre.
The new public entrance will be designed with two accessible pathways leading from the eternal flame and courtyard in front of Centre Block to the welcome centre’s main floor, its security checkpoints and elevators.
The lowest level of the centre is expected to feature museum-esque exhibits, a multimedia theatre and on-site classrooms to educate visitors about Parliament.
Wright told reporters during a tour of the ongoing renovations on Thursday that getting parliamentarians themselves involved in that outreach to the public is a priority.
Kali Prostebby, the manager of visitor services at the Library of Parliament, described what a visit might look like for a classroom.
“Spend the day in terms of having curriculum-specific program for the grade level of your students, attend question period, meet with a parliamentarian from your region, check out the exhibit spaces,” she listed off.
“The idea is it isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience, but really one that is dynamic and flexible, that connects Canadians with Parliament.”
Wright said the vision for the overhaul of Centre Block is to modernize the building and improve accessibility while also preserving the heritage of the site.
He said three floors will be installed above the Hall of Honour — Centre Block’s main corridor, connecting the library to Confederation Hall or the rotunda at the heart of the building.
In addition to office space, an Indigenous cultural space and an informal lounge for parliamentarians are to be built, Wright said.
The building’s roof will be raised five metres for improved heating and cooling.
The project is aiming for Centre Block to use 75 per cent less energy and 50 per cent less water than what the building consumed before renovations. It plans for the site to feature net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions.
Centre Block is undergoing seismic retrofitting, a process commonly practised on heritage sites in California and the southern United States.
The goal is to modify existing structures to make them more resistant to ground motion or earthquakes, to protect and secure Parliament’s foundation and to meet modern structural standards.
Sky-facing windows are also being incorporated into the renovated design for increased natural lighting inside of Centre Block.