Canada’s capital city celebrated the opening of the new Ottawa Convention Centre with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and gala evening event on April 13.

The sleek new facility is quite a feat of engineering and innovation, as a group of meeting planners and press representatives discovered first-hand during a March “Behind-the-Scenes” tour of the center and the city.

Built on the site of the demolished Ottawa Congress Centre in the heart of downtown, the new center nearly triples the meeting capacity of the old building to 192,000 square feet of flexible space on three levels, and at the same time, expands the old building’s footprint by only half while preserving a physical link with the adjacent Rideau Shopping Centre and the Westin Hotel.

The building’s sheath of curved glass has already become as iconic of Ottawa as the city’s parliament buildings. Allowing beautiful vistas of the city day and night, the sheath contains invisible thermal threads that control the amount of light and warmth from sunlight and coordinate with heating and cooling systems to reduce energy use.

That’s just one example of an engineering strategy driven by space, energy, and technology efficiencies—all wonderfully blended with an interior design that is bold without being cold. The sweeping entrance area, for example, features two free-floating stairways and a 13-story wall made of beautiful reclaimed wood from the Ottawa River, commemorating the city’s long history as a nexus for the logging industry.

Built to LEED Silver certification standards, the Ottawa Convention Centre boasts all manner of energy-efficient systems, from low-flow water fixtures to a state of the art roof technology that reduces heating and cooling costs and a high-tech banquet kitchen capable of delivering a sit-down gourmet meal for 6,000 guests.

There are 1,400 hotel rooms within a city block and 6,000 in the downtown area, which is about 20 minutes from the Ottawa International Airport. Attendees can walk to the historic Byward Market, where they’ll find about a hundred restaurants and shops and bars. Otttawa is also home to some of the country’s finest museums, including the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Civilization (both of which are available for special events).

Among the city’s attractions is the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site, just across the street from the convention center. This recreational waterway is open for boating in the summer and in the winter the stretch passing through central Ottawa becomes the world’s largest ice skating rink.

“OCC is already holding space for several conventions that never would otherwise have fit in the old congress center,” notes Patrick Kelly, president of Ontario Convention Centre. “The center will be a huge economic generator for the city and puts Ottawa on the map for international conventions.”

The stats:
Multipurpose hall with 24,000 square feet of pre-function space plus 56,000 square feet of column-free space, seating up to 4,000 guests for banquets and accommodating up to 400 10-foot-by-10-foot exhibit booths

Configurable up to 28 meeting rooms

21,300-square-foot ballroom with floor to ceiling windows

Direct access to parking facilities offering cover spaces