Government Building in Vancouver

A historic building in Vancouver is in growing need of restoration and redevelopment if it is to retain its relevance for the next hundred years and beyond. The Canadian Government wants to improve the building’s performance standards, for the sake of its workers and the environment, and make better use of this valuable space in Vancouver’s central business district. As part of its long-term plan to consider the building’s future, the Canadian Government asked WSP to undertake a feasibility study by creating four different options for the site.


  • Government of Canada

Project Status

  • Feasibility study completed in September 2017

Imagining a New Future for a Historic Site

A baseline option was first created showing how the building could meet the current minimum design criteria stipulated by the Government of Canada. The three additional options were prepared by combining different Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction measures and comparing those to the baseline option. A preferred option was chosen among the four scenarios and analysed for reduced water use, health and wellness, LEED certification and embodied carbon impacts.

Our interdisciplinary team, including sustainability and energy efficiency experts, and mechanical, electrical, building envelope and structural engineers, as well as outside services from a cost consultant and architect, needed to create a viable low carbon option for repurposing this building.

These options would be differentiated by their overall aim, with one option focusing more on cost-optimisation and another focusing on the greatest carbon reduction possible to achieve a carbon neutral rating. Though each option would have different specific focuses, each would need to meet the Canadian Government’s high minimal environmental standards.

Key Numbers

96,600 sq. m 96,600 sq. m
Potable water use reduction
76% 76%
Reduction in GHG emissions
97% 97%

Our team carefully considered high performance design strategies for the various components of the site. The preferred scenario is predicted to achieve a 97% reduction in GHG emissions with only a 0.3% increase in building’s life cycle cost (considering a 25-year period). Some of the measures included in the preferred option comprise:

- Radiant HVAC system with displacement ventilation and heat recovery;
- Strategic use of electrochromic glass;
- Comfort mobile app enabling relaxed indoor air temperature setpoints; and
- Free cooling via an atrium ‘lung’ duct that blends architecture and engineering.

The preferred option included additional analysis for reduced water use, embodied carbon, and health and wellness. WSP evaluated the ability of the project to achieve the WELL Building Standard, which assesses work space against wideranging criteria of elements that affect worker wellbeing. For example, WELL requires circadian lighting for worker comfort, access to healthy food, indoor greenery and ‘active’ work stations. Our experts evaluated water conservation measures that could be applied to the preferred option. WSP developed scenarios that are predicted to achieve a 76% reduction in potable water use at the site.

Creating four scenarios for a future-ready redevelopment

We considered impact of utilising a wood structure for the project in comparison to a conventional reinforced concrete structure. This would enable the Canadian Government to position itself as a leader in modern, sustainable wood construction methods and support British Columbia’s forestry industry. Using a comparative whole building lifecycle assessment, the use of wood is predicted to have a 16% embodied carbon improvement over the conventional structure.

Each scenario we devised was based on intelligence gained from our client about how it wanted to create a smart, agile work space, capable of adapting to the needs of workers over the next 25 years or more. We aligned our strategies to meet these goals. We also factored in emerging technologies, such as the use of electrochromic (smart) glass that can control the amount of light and solar radiation that penetrates the glazing.

The result is that the Government of Canada has four, in-depth options that analyse the feasibility and costs of different approaches to securing the future of this property and positioning the site as a landmark, green and future-ready workplace.