Cliff Street Boiler Plant

When a boiler explosion threatened heat production to Ottawa’s downtown core just weeks before winter set in, a national emergency was declared. Working around the clock, an entirely new plant was built in only 37 days.


  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada



Project Value

  • 25 Million

Project Status

  • Completed 2009


  • PBK Architects

On Monday, October 19th, 2009, boiler # 6 exploded at the Ottawa Cliff Heating and Cooling plant. The explosion took the life of an operator and shut off heating and cooling capacity to 52 buildings in Ottawa's downtown core. Widespread asbestos contamination resulting from the explosion imposed restrictions on plant access and made investigation difficult. Initial decisions had to be made quickly with limited information.


A whopping 87 drawings were produced within the first 9 weeks of the project. Over 80 Senior Personnel from 6 different offices assisted PWGSC in the design and build of this $25M temporary heating plant, in a record setting forty-five days.  Four large boilers and associated equipment were installed outdoors and once functional, a building was erected to house the equipment of the ‘National Security Project’ that supplies heat to 52 downtown Ottawa buildings, including the Parliament buildings.   


  • WSP provided the detailed design, site assistance, inspection, and commissioning services.  
  • Scope included detailed design for all process, mechanical/piping, civil, structural, architectural, electrical, and instrumentation works, building systems, environmental approvals, and permitting for this power plant, which included high pressure steam process piping, natural gas, condensate and feed water distribution, and high voltage power.
  • To meet the compressed schedule, the design team was positioned at a nearby office and set-up in site trailers with an internet link. The design was adapted to suit equipment that was sourced and detailed to permit installation without delay to construction activities.