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Ottawa’s new Convention Centre to rival the world’s best


SPECIAL REPORT BY JAMES WILKINSON IN OTTAWA, CANADA

Ottawa is fast becoming a major player in the global convention and conference market, even well before the city’s new, environmentally sustainable Convention Centre opens for business in April 2011.


The Ottawa Convention Centre, set to open in 2011

Both Melbourne and Sydney are facing strong competition from the Canadian capital in the 5,000-plus delegate market, as are Ottawa’s other major competitors, sister cities Toronto and Vancouver.

When the new Ottawa Convention Centre opens next April, the city will not only boast one of North America’s largest array of historic buildings available to host events, but the world’s newest, and potentially most environmentally-friendly, convention facility. 

Currently in the final stages of construction, the new centre’s starring feature is Canada’s largest curved glass wall, made up of 1,045 triangular glass sheets and each in a different size to allow for curvature both vertically and horizontally.

The 30 metre by 90 metre wall forms the outer skin of the building and allows for panoramic views of the city’s historic Parliament buildings and the Rideu Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ottawa Convention Centre President, Patrick Kelly, said the design was one of the reasons the new facility was attracting significant attention for hosting major international conventions.

“You can see the emergence of an iconic landmark for the City of Ottawa, and indeed, for all of Canada,” he said.

“As each day passes (until the end of October), the building will continue to be sealed up in glass, piece by piece.

“We couldn’t have built this facility five years ago… the technology just didn’t exist,” Kelly said.

What’s behind the glass wall is also winning over international buyers, who are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious when booking major events.

According to the Board of the Ottawa Convention Centre, environmental sustainability was a major requirement of the winning proposal to redevelop the convention centre and counted as a critical measure in the selection of Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects and PCL Constructors.

The Board determined that “a green convention facility will significantly reduce the environmental impact on the downtown core by shrinking greenhouse gas emissions associated with facility operations and energy use”.

They also insisted on strong environmental performance and leadership because of its location but also because of a “commitment to doing what is right for the future of the planet”.

From the design to the construction process – which began in mid-2008 – to the eventual day-to-day operation, the Ottawa Convention Centre will rival the world’s best for sustainability.

Energy savings of 25 per cent compared to Canada’s National Energy Code for Buildings will be achieved through the installation of high efficiency mechanical equipment, a high performance building envelope, recycling of ventilation products, increased insulation levels, variable seed pumps and motors, high performance windows and frames, and occupancy and daylight sensors to reduce interior lighting consumption, and low-flow water fixtures to reduce water consumption.

The facility will also have a thermal monitoring system so that at all times only the required heating and cooling will be on. In addition, 100 per cent of parking spaces will be under the Ottawa Convention Centre which creates a heating source and increases energy efficiency for the building.

Other initiatives include: only using Green Seal and EcoLogo certified cleaning products and materials such as paper towels that are made of recycled content; direct access to public transportation and alternative transportation; and the architects also provided ample locations for bike racks and shower facilities for staff who choose to ride bicycles or jog to work.

Onto the numbers and the Ottawa Convention Centre will feature 192,000 square feet of flexible space, including: a multi-purpose hall that can accommodate up to 6,000 delegates theatre-style, banquets of 4,500 or 400 10×10 display booths; can be configurable up to 30 meeting spaces; and a 21,300 square foot ballroom with floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Ottawa Convention Centre is also close to 6,000 downtown hotel rooms and 1,400 within a city block, including the 429 on offer at the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier across the street.


Historic: the Fairmont Chateau Laurier

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier first opened in June, 1912, and remains one of Canada’s most historic and talked-about hotels. In its 99 years, the property has been the hotel of choice for global Royalty, dignitaires and celebrities, including Albert Einstein, Sir Winston Churchill and Lady Diana.

With its history and location, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier grand ballroom is also proving popular for offsite dinners during events at the Ottawa Convention Centre.

According to the hotel’s Director of Public Relations, Deneen Perrin, interest is continuing to pick up as the new facility gets set to open in six months time.

Perrin said she expects the demand to pick up after the centre’s opening in April, alongside increased interest in the hotel’s 100th birthday celebrations.

   
The best way to Ottawa (clockwise from top left):
V Australia’s International Business,
Virgin America, V Australia and VIA Rail

SpiceNews travelled to Ottawa on V Australia, Virgin America and VIA Rail. V Australia flies to Los Angeles from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and from there, Virgin America flies to Toronto. You can then take a short flight to Ottawa, but SpiceNews recommends travelling on VIA Rail for the journey north. V Australia offers three cabins on flights between Australia and Los Angeles and in International Business, guests will find food from celebrated Sydney chef Luke Mangan, full-flat bed seats, hundreds of hours of entertainment on demand and a bar complete with stools. Virgin America offers two classes of hip service on flights between Los Angeles and Toronto and in First Class (complete with white leather seats), all food, entertainment on demand and WiFi is entirely free. VIA Rail offers its premium VIA 1 service between Toronto and Ottawa featuring a three-course meal, complimentary beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and WiFi alongside stunning views of the Canadian countryside. Visit www.vaustralia.com, www.virginamerica.com and www.viarail.ca for bookings.

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