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Behind the Project: Centre Block in Ottawa

The Centre Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa is currently undergoing one of the largest and most complex heritage rehabilitations in Canada.

Angela Wu and Hailey Todd work on the structural analysis modelling for Centre Block, Dana Bonner is the project’s contract administrator and Mohammad Mirmoezi, senior associate, serves as the project principal. Entuitive is providing specialty structural and construction engineering consulting for this project.

Thanks so much for sitting down with us Mohammad, Angela, Hailey, and Dana. Can you tell us a bit about this project?

Mohammad: This project aims to rehabilitate and expand the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. It is the largest, most complex rehabilitation project ever in Canada. Updates include restoring the building’s stonework, wood, and frescoes; replacing outdated mechanical and fire safety systems; making the building more sustainable and accessible; bringing it into compliance with updated building codes for earthquakes; and more.

We are also excavating up to 23 meters of bedrock under the existing building in order to expand it. This involves intricate temporary shoring to support the existing structure so that the expansion can be built underneath.

Can you tell us about some of the technical challenges of this project?

Angela: The sheer scope of the project presents its own challenges. We must always think innovatively and provide solutions that have never been done before. For example, we’re providing thermal control to the shoring piles of our substructure to minimize deformation due to changes in temperatures throughout the year. In addition, our structural models must mimic the jacking and shoring behaviour of the temporary supports underneath the parliament building. This is so that we can control the deflection of the superstructure while it's under temporary jacking/shoring supports. Our models must incorporate staged construction and non-linear analysis as well. It’s a very unique project. Dana: The conditions of the Centre Block Rehabilitation Project are so unparalleled that it is really one of a kind. These conditions include the prestige of the project, the stringent installation criteria, the lack of existing data to describe the behaviour of the piles under these conditions, and the sheer scale of the project. These create such a unique scenario that has driven the team to be creative in our problem solving. For example, to address the knowledge gap in the behaviour of the piles, the team developed our own lab testing program to gain confidence in their behaviour. Mohammad: Our team at Entuitive has completed underpinning projects before, such as with our work on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in Toronto. I believe our prior experience has set us up for success on Centre Block.

We recently celebrated International Women in Engineering Day, and we are proud to boast project teams with women leaders at all levels. Can you tell us a bit about your experience on the team?

Angela: I’ve learned a lot on this project and it’s a pleasure to work on a team with many smart, hard-working women. Everything that we learn on this project will certainly be useful on future projects, especially regarding the advanced stage construction modeling of jacking and shoring a building on piles. Working on such a big team, collaborating with so many people, is a great experience.

Hailey: I’m learning so much on this project. Its impressive scope means that some of our models are massive, and so it’s been interesting and a great learning experience to work with a larger team producing different models that must all come together.

Dana: My experience may be a bit unique in that I come from a contracting background, and this is my first project both with Entuitive and from a consulting perspective. I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a remarkable project and supportive team for my first one!

I am a part of the CA team on Centre Block. Unlike other projects, every week is a bit different and has new opportunities for learning. We really get to exercise our creative problem-solving skills and vigilance in such a fast-paced environment.

Thanks so much for your time, Mohammad, Angela, Hailey, and Dana! To learn more about the Centre Block project, reach out to our Senior Associate Mohammad.


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