PSPC Engineers: Moving the Nation’s Capital into the Future

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) manages one of the largest and most diverse portfolios of real estate in the country. It is the Government of Canada’s property and heritage conservation expert and the federal government’s second largest employer of engineers. With the rise of smart technology and the government’s commitment to greening and modernizing our buildings, the department is an exciting place to work. Across the country, PSPC employs over 400 engineers in various roles, from professional engineering to project management, to managerial and executive roles.

PSPC Project Arthur Meighen Building
Rendering of the Arthur Meighen Building, 25/55 St. Clair Avenue East, Toronto, ON

At the department’s Parliamentary Precinct Branch, architects and engineers are helping the Government of Canada preserve, restore and modernize Canada’s historic parliament buildings and the downtown core of Canada’s capital. Transforming the 19th century precinct into an integrated campus that serves the needs of a 21st century parliament is a massive undertaking.

The restoration and modernization of such iconic buildings as the West, East and Centre Blocks as well as the Wellington Building, the old Bank of Montreal building and the Government Conference Centre involve a stem-to-stern overhaul. For example, the recently completed West Block project included removing 4,700 metric tonnes of asbestos-containing material, removing and repairing or replacing approximately 60,000 of the building’s 140,000 stones, replacing 1.4 million bricks, inserting 10,000 seismic reinforcement bars to add structural strength, excavating over 28 Olympicsized swimming pools’ worth of bedrock to create new underground levels, replacing 3,500 square metres of copper roofing, and installing a glass roof measuring more than 2,600 square metres over the new chamber.

Although the parliament buildings were contemporary for their time, present-day requirements around physical and cyber security, broadcasting and videoconferencing, environmental sustainability and universal accessibility were not even part of the societal context when the buildings were originally conceived. Integrating these modern considerations, while preserving the architectural heritage of the site, is an exciting challenge. Getting it right relies, to a great degree, on the expertise of professional engineers in both the public and private sectors.

PSPC project Structural steel work at West Block, Parliament Hill
Structural steel work at West Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, ON. Photo credit: Roberta Gal

The department’s Real Property Services is responsible for managing 17 unique engineering assets across the country, from bridges, dams, and ship repair facilities to a large section of the Alaska Highway in British Columbia. These assets are vital pieces of infrastructure within their communities and serve hundreds of thousands of Canadians on a daily basis. Through a rigorous asset management regime, engineers help maintain and inspect these assets to ensure they remain safe for Canadians. They also identify and deliver projects like the replacement of the Latchford Dam, the Big Chaudière Dam, the Timiskaming Ontario Dam, and the Des Allumettes Bridge. These projects create local jobs and spur economic development in their respective regions.

PSPC bridge project
The Royal Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge, Ottawa, ON/Gatineau, QC. Photo credit: Andrew Geddes Photography

The breadth of work for engineers at this department even extends to the management of ten dams in three separate drainage basins. There, they make water management decisions, operate flood reserves, perform daily dam operations, provide national expertise for dam and water management, and respond in times of crisis.

The Government of Canada’s Greening Government Strategy has set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing the resiliency of federal assets to adapt to the changing climate. The department’s engineers are working to reduce GHG emissions from federal buildings and operations and achieve a carbon-neutral reality by 2050, with an aspirational target of 2030.

PSPC currently has 143 energy efficiency/GHG emission-reduction projects approved and being implemented across the country, such as converting building lighting from fluorescent to LEDs, leveraging data analytics to improve building systems management via the Smart Buildings initiative, and replacing building automation systems and boilers.

PSPC engineers are at the forefront, working hard at creating the critical mass of collaborators and contributors necessary to increase the speed of innovation and propel the engineering profession, and the department’s many exciting new projects and initiatives, into the future.

To read the full article, check out the December 2018 issue of The Voice magazine.

This article was contributed by Kathleen Barrette, Mona Lockett and Mirabelle Ibalanky of Public Services and Procurement Canada. Social media: @PSPC_SPAC. #parliamentonthemove #GCworkplace #greeningthewaywework

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