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Landmark Canadian Federal Building

Metal ceiling systems chosen for high quality, cost effectiveness

Rockfon Dec17 1

Spanning 650,000 square feet and rising 17 stories, the James Michael Flaherty Building is one of the largest, new construction projects in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s recent history. This federal office complex at 90 Elgin St. nestles among the Canadian capital’s national monuments and institutions. The $250 million landmark building features metal ceiling systems throughout its lobby and offices. In addition to helping create an attractive workplace, these ceiling systems also support requirements for comfort, including acoustics; safety, including seismic conditions; and sustainability, including the Canadian Green Building Council’s LEED Gold criteria.

Designed by the joint venture of Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based DIALOG and Ottawa-based David S McRobie Architects (DSMA), the building’s stature and style are consistent with other significant federal buildings surrounding Confederation Square. Bringing this vision to reality, Ron Engineeringand Construction (Eastern) Ltd., Ottawa, served as the design-builder.

“Maybe about every 25 years a building this big comes to Ottawa. This one takes the cake,” says Mike Tang, superintendent at Ron Engineering. “It’s a very large building with a very large lobby. It takes a team effort.”

DSMA’s vice president, James Salem, acknowledges the project was both collaborative and challenging. He describes the team effort as “design-build that’s value-engineered as you go. We were balancing cost effectiveness with very high-quality standard. The request for proposal called for high-quality materials in the lobby such as granite, glass, metals and a wood ceiling. Not only were these high-end finishes expensive, they also are very hard surfaces.”

State of the Art Acoustik Inc., Ottawa, modeled the lobby’s acoustical options and possible solutions. Salem continues, “There was concern that excessive reverberation caused by the use of hard surfaces would make it very difficult to hear any announcements over the public address. The ceiling was the only opportunity to improve the acoustic performance.”

Ottawa-based Morin Bros. Building Supplies’ vice president, Gerald Morin, CTR, adds, “The lobby area is one of the most important interior areas in making a great impression. Once we understood the design criteria and parameters, after discussion with the whole team, we could begin to explore alternatives that fit into the budget and met design expectations.”

Familiar with Chicago-based Rockfon’s complete ceiling solutions and capabilities, Morin sought out its technical services team. With confidence, Morin explains, “I was sure they could produce it. They have the wood-look painted finish on metal panels, which saves a lot of money compared to real wood. They have the know-how and, for the most complex areas, I was certain they could adjust their regular systems to fit the job’s requirements.”

Delivering the desired aesthetic of wood and the performance benefits of metal, Rockfon Spanair hook-on aluminum panels were painted in Woodscenes Lazy Maple with matching custom trim. Suspended at various planes, the rectangular ceiling pods add visual interest to the main lobby. Achieving the intended look and performance involved more than 5,300 square feet of Rockfon Planostile lay-in, solid aluminum panels. Black, lay-in Planostile panels knit together the ceiling’s rectangular pods and the Spanair panels.

In contrast to the warm wood-look finish on the Spanair panels, a sleek metallic Satin Silver anodize was selected for the linear metal ceiling in the lobby entrance on Elgin Street facing the National Arts Centre. To create this eight-story-tall grand welcome, Nepean, Ontario-based Advance Drywall installed Rockfon Planar Macroplus panels. A similar ceiling system was used for the secondary lobby entrance on Albert Street.

Satin Silver anodize also was the finish of choice on the ceiling pods positioned at the elevator bays. These pods are composed of Rockfon Chicago Metallic suspension systems, Infinity Z Razor Edge perimeter trim and Planostile lay-in metal panels. An acoustical backer and perforation on the panels offer high sound absorption, achieving a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) of 0.90. Elsewhere in the lobby, 0.70 NRC was acceptable.

Final details were presented to confirm how the various ceiling systems integrated with the lighting, air diffusers, sprinklers, security systems and columns. Not only did the ceiling system need to accommodate these elements, it also needed to provide easy access to the plenum for potential repairs and updates to wires, pipes, ducts and other components.

Ron Engineering’s Tang also noted that finalizing the shop drawings and details for these complicated systems “took a lot of back-and-forth. But when everything started to come in, it was bang-bang and you’re done.”

“At the end of the day, everybody loves the ceiling,” Tang says proudly. The project earned LEED Gold certification for Core and Shell, met all other required performance criteria, and was substantially completed on schedule.

“It was quite an exercise in coordination and integration. In the end, it turned out very well. It’s a good balance of quality finishes for a good value,” concludes Salem.

Mark Taylor is the manager of Chicago-based Rockfon's North America product management team. To learn more, visit