For Your Entertainment: Electrical Work on the NAC and EY Centre in Ottawa

national arts centre ottawa
Photo credit - National Arts Centre

IBEW electricians and ECAO contractors supporting performing arts

When the lights go down and the music starts at the National Arts Centre, many people don’t think about what happened behind the scenes to ensure the performing artist are showcased to the best of their ability.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario (IBEW CCO) and the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO) are proud to be part of ensuring Ottawa’s iconic venues can delivery quality sound and lighting safely and effectively.

IBEW Local 586 and ECAO contractors Wired Synergy Inc. and Ziebarth Electrical Contractors Ltd. have been actively involved in improving and maintaining some of Ottawa’s most important entertainment venues for years. The ECAO/IBEW CCO are also proud sponsors of the Ontario Country Music Awards and other events that feature home-grown talent.

Being a Part of the National Arts Centre’s Future

Most Canadians are familiar with the National Arts Centre (NAC). This National Historic Site of Canada came to life in 1967, and for over 50 years has been the place for performing arts across the country. It stages more than 1,300 performances a year.

This beloved building needed renovations, and those renovations started in 2016. The projected end date for the project is October 2019.

“It’s completely different from anything else in Ottawa, and different from anything we’ve ever done,” says Roch Picknell, president and CEO of Wired Synergy Inc (and star of our video). His company was responsible for all the electrical work – and there was a lot of it!

“It’s been a smooth project,” says John Bourke, business manager of IBEW Local 586. Many of his Local’s electricians worked on this project. “They were excited to see behind the scenes of the NAC, and proud to be involved in its betterment for the future.”

“Everybody sees the National Arts Centre. It’s a central hub of this city,” remarks Bourke. “There’s a great sense of pride to be instrumental in rebuilding such an important place for our region.”

Picknell feels the same way. “In your city, you need to take care of the people that live there. Having venues like this not only provides people with access to entertainment and the arts, but it gives our performing artists a place to showcase their talents.”

“It’s fulfilling to see the NAC and know you and your team were a part of a landmark,” Picknell added. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible people from the NAC, the PCLC Constructors, Crossey Engineering – everyone from every stage of this project made it a success.”

“There’s a great sense of pride to be instrumental in rebuilding such an important place for our region,”

– Roch Picknell, Wired Synergy Inc.

The Scope of the Project

The renovations were divided into 2 phases: the architectural rejuvenation phase and the production renewal phase. The NAC’s architectural rejuvenation phase included various projects including:

  • Improved spaces for performance and public space for education.
  • New wings for audience and presentation events.
  • A new glass façade featuring the signature Kipnes lantern.
  • A 60-foot hexagonal tower of glass and steel that rises high above the building’s main entrance designed to extend the geometry of the original architecture into the 21st century.
  • An upper level lounge overlooking Confederation Square and Parliament Hill.
  • Transformation of the fourth stage, which serves as an incubator for theatre and music.

The next phase was production renewal, and involved upgrading the actual performance spaces and all the behind the scenes equipment. This included:

  • The new Orchestra Shell.
  • A new sound system .
  • Upgrades to the theatrical and technical infrastructure.
  • Upgraded sound isolation to improve the sound and light transfer between the performance spaces and the foyers.
  • Updates and upgrades to the mechanical and electrical infrastructure.

“This was particularly difficult. We had strict schedules to stick to, as we could only be in certain areas for certain times due to the ongoing performances and rehearsals,” Picknell explained. “We had to get equipment up on catwalks and hard-to-reach places quickly and competently.”

“It was very challenging, but our team and the group at the NAC were phenomenal,” he adds. The NAC added 36,000 square feet of space, bringing the total area to almost 1.2 million!

“We did all the rewiring and electrical infrastructure for this phase,” explains Picknell. “All these major building restoration efforts were performed with the ongoing performance and rehearsal activities,” says Picknell. In fact, during the entirety of this massive project, the NAC has only been closed for 10 weeks.

This massive project was the first of its kind, and Picknell says he and his team are proud of what’s been accomplished.

Bringing More Entertainment to Ottawa with the EY Centre

Anyone who has travelled the Airport Parkway has glimpsed the EY Centre. It is the place where most of Ottawa’s major multi-day events and conventions take place. Ottawa Home Shows, Ottawa ComicCon, and the National Women’s Show are just some of the major events that take place here.

Johannes Ziebarth, president and CEO of Ziebarth Electrical Contractors Ltd., spoke about the 10-month project to create the ultimate entertainment space.

“We did all of the electrical for the design-build project, and worked directly with the owners and designers: definitely a different approach than some of our other projects,” Ziebarth said.

The project covered the entire 220,000 square foot building, and involved making it fully equipped for any kind of event or performance.

“It’s a multi-use facility, so we installed electrical services specifically designed to be flexible so you can set up whatever you need,” Ziebarth explained.

This project was massive, and involved its own unique challenges. “There were lots of time constraints, as the goal was to finish the EY Centre project before the work at Lansdowne began,” said Ziebarth. . Lansdowne – home to TD Place – is a large urban park with entertainment facilities of its own.

“It’s interesting to do a project like this. We’re a part of upgrading hospitality venues in the nation’s capital. There’s a huge sense of pride that goes with that,” he added.

“We’re also incredibly proud of our team. Our ability to access skilled workers is one of our greatest assets,” he adds.

Even now, when Ziebarth drives by the EY Centre, he feels that immense sense of satisfaction.

“It’s fundamental that we be able to bring amazing performances and events to our city, and our work helps make that possible.”