Business View Magazine interviews representatives of the Shaw Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, as part of our series on IAEE Convention Centers.
Juxtaposing Ottawa’s rich logging history with an eco-friendly nod to the future, the Shaw Centre is an architectural gem that brings sparkle and awe to the nation’s Capital. Its stunning design affords views of the historic city through a sweeping façade of glass while, inside, a magnificent wall of reclaimed wood rises through all four levels of the facility.
Every bit as spectacular as its looks, the focus on sustainability during and after construction of the building is unprecedented. Recently, Business View Magazine spoke with three key members of the Shaw Centre team – Nina Kressler, President & CEO; Julia Forbes, Director Marketing & Sponsorship; and Loretta Briard, General Manager – about the Centre’s operations, and leadership in environmental excellence.
BVM: What is the backstory behind this unique building?
Kressler: “The old Congress Centre was, in square footage, a very small Centre for the nation’s Capital. It became evident that Ottawa was not gaining its fair share of convention business in Canada, and the federal, provincial, and municipal governments felt it was prudent for the city to have a beautiful convention venue. So, the new Centre was funded by all three levels of government and opened in April of 2011, at a total price tag of $170 million.
“The building was designed in a stacked fashion, to allow for an extremely large group of three or four thousand people to have the entire facility. Alternatively, it allows for simultaneous smaller association or corporate events of 500 to 800 people. We have seen nothing but success since we opened the doors, in all facets of our market, including our national association market that accounts for approximately 50 percent of our business.
“We’re really looking at our national corporate market now, and that has seen tremendous growth. Lastly, we see substantial opportunities in the International congress market, which we’ve grown from 0 percent to 20 percent of our business. It’s a longer booking cycle, but we do compete with Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver in a Canadian capacity, and we’ve done well to position Ottawa as a global contender for international meetings.
“Employees include 40 managers and just over 300 colleagues that support the Centre. We host approximately 500 events annually. This includes a mix of smaller meetings for 20 to 50 people, graduations, holiday parties, galas, and weddings. Consumer shows round out our weekend business, and are open to the public.”
BVM: What sort of technological amenities do you provide?
Briard: “When we opened the building, we partnered with Freeman AV and Freeman Expo for audio/visual, and show services. Through that partnership, the Centre is now a completely digital facility. We offer 24” digital signage displays outside each meeting room, and 52” displays in the lobbies and throughout the different function areas for event schedules and locations. They are also used for sponsor advertising opportunities.
“Large, digital way-finding monitors direct our guests to different areas of the building. Every meeting room has a Crestron Touch Panel for adjusting lighting, sound, HVAC, and volume controls. Plus, they have a built-in phone capability, giving us immediate contact with our clients. Freeman also installed built-in screens with widescreen and HD laser projectors, accompanied by a sound system. It gives people flexibility without having to bring in their own production equipment. We offer WiFi throughout the facility and two WiFi lounges with online access, 24-7.”
BVM: Congratulations on being LEED Gold certified. What types of sustainable practices are ongoing in your operations?
Briard: “With our leadership in energy and environmental design, the Shaw Centre uses 30 percent less energy than most conventional buildings of its size. During redevelopment, 90 percent of the materials from the demolished Ottawa Congress Centre were recycled or re-used in the new building. One of our best features is ‘The Wall of Three Rivers’ made entirely of reclaimed heritage wood retrieved from the bottom of our local Rideau, Ottawa, and Gatineau Rivers.
“Our number-one feature is the glass façade at the front of our building. It’s double-glazed glass that’s low e-coated and argon filled. Being thermally treated, it saves energy by letting natural light in. Quick Fact: There are 1084 triangular panels that make up the glass wall. Each panel weighs 800 pounds, and none are the same size.
“From a food service perspective, we have a waste management system in the kitchen called ORCA that uses a micro-organism digestive process to break down organic waste and convert it to environmentally safe water. We divert about 132,000 pounds of waste per year from the landfill by using ORCA to process food waste that comes back from food service and prep.
“In operations and housekeeping, all the cleaning products are eco-friendly, Green Seal certified. Daylight sensors on pre-function space ceilings on all levels automatically dim the artificial light, depending on how bright the natural light is from outside. Our recycling program includes a bailer that allows us to recycle cardboard. In our loading dock, we have a recycling wall which we’re quite excited about, for collecting lightbulbs, cans, glass, bottles, waste, organics, and cardboard. We also have a complete on-site waste program and low-flow plumbing that reduces water consumption, and minimizes the impact on water and sewage treatment plants.
“We’ve purchased over one million kilowatts for certified renewable energy sources, and a lot of materials used during the redevelopment, such as paint and carpets, contain low VOCs. We also have a cistern that collects rain water, which is used in our toilets.”
BVM: How do partnerships contribute to upgrading and enhancing the facility?
Kressler: “From a capital perspective, we don’t have any major upgrades planned, but we do invest in new furniture, fixtures, and equipment on an annual basis, where needed. Also, décor, to make sure our food stations and meeting rooms are modern and relevant.”
Forbes: “We have a partnership with the Ottawa Art Gallery and display a lot of their beautiful artwork throughout the building to keep it fresh and show our Canadian pride. The Museum of Nature, Museum of Aviation – all the local gems – contribute art installations and exhibits to keep our guests in tune with the Ottawa area. Our Centre is currently under naming rights with Shaw Communications, so that’s a great opportunity for us on the sponsorship side. We also partner with Mark Motors, Coca-Cola, Molson, Hydro Ottawa, Waste Management; we have a ton of long-term deals and highly value these relationships.”
BVM: What role do community initiatives play in the Shaw Centre operation?
Forbes: “With our ‘Leave a Legacy’ program, we encourage clients to pay it forward with things left behind from their event. Anything from food and beverage, to pens, pencils, notebooks, we donate to communities in need. It’s been quite impactful. After our Loblaw Nation Kick-off Event, we donated over 100,000 tons of food. And 25,000 sq. ft. of carpet from the Auto Show.
“Groupe Convex is a non-profit that provides meaningful jobs for people facing employment challenges. They handmake our token red, Adirondack-style chairs that are featured throughout the Centre.
“The Shaw Centre was designed to be accessible for anyone with a disability. In addition to the typical ramps, etc., one of our really great features is tactile flooring that helps the visually impaired find their way to meeting rooms, and there is braille on every room sign to indicate the location. In Canada, buildings will have to be accessible-friendly by 2022. We went ahead and implemented those features from the beginning of construction.
“Recently, our staff received training on gender diversity and sexuality. We had a group come in and give information on the LGBTQ+ community; learning about respectful language, gaining insight to being more inclusive for our guests. We took that a step further by implementing gender neutral washrooms. We’re looking forward to welcoming people from all over the world, and making sure they feel involved.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Shaw Centre
WHAT: Premiere conference and convention centre in Canada’s capital city
WHERE: Ottawa, Ontario