About this project
Burnaby City Hall was originally built in 1955. The building has been a vital part of our community but has reached its end of life. We are exploring the best option to ensure that Burnaby residents and businesses are well served in the years to come.
In summer 2023, the City engaged residents to hear their thoughts about moving City Hall from its current location in central Burnaby to the City’s emerging downtown at Metrotown. While there was support for the Civic Square location in the Metrotown neighbourhood, there was a desire from residents to continue to have City Hall centrally located for ease of access from all areas of the city.
What’s happening now?
Staff have begun preliminary studies to explore options for the future of City Hall in the Deer Lake area and will provide a recommendation to Council in the coming months. Options under consideration include the redevelopment of a replacement City Hall somewhere on the Deer Lake site, and the feasibility of renovating and expanding the existing City Hall complex to meet the current operational and functional needs.
Why does City Hall need to be replaced or renovated?
Most buildings, including City Hall, are built to meet the building codes and seismic standards at the time of construction. Over the years, there have been significant changes to seismic standards that reflect a better scientific understanding from experts about how a building will respond to an earthquake. As seismic standards have strengthened over the years, the gap between the seismic resilience of older buildings and current standards has grown.
In 2016, a City project to replace the single-pane windows in the main building triggered the need for an updated seismic evaluation to understand the structure’s ability to withstand the additional weight of new windows and also the building’s overall seismic status in relation to the latest building code.
A seismic assessment report completed by a professional engineering firm in 2016, based on the code at the time (BCBC 2012) assessed the seismic risks of damage to City Hall in the event of an earthquake.
The report found different levels of risk between the buildings on the City Hall campus due to the age of construction and the additions and modifications to the buildings. Burnaby City Hall main building was initially built in 1955 as a 3-storey concrete L-shaped building. Over the years, modifications to the building included adding two additional floors of structural steel in the 1960s, additional precast concrete frames were constructed along the east and west end of the main block for shading in the 1970s, and renovations to the north block in 1996 that included structural changes.
The report found that, like many other buildings built in the mid-1950s that have undergone multiple additions and renovations, City Hall does not comply with the current seismic code requirements and is far from a current post-disaster building standard. It concluded that the main and west buildings were approaching a point in the buildings’ life cycle where major capital reinvestment was required to meet and maintain basic standards.
Recently, an updated seismic assessment report was conducted that reviewed the results from 2016 and was updated based on the current code (BCBC2018) as well as the code slated to be issued later this year (BCBC2023).
The report finds that the gap between the conditions of City Hall and today’s seismic standards has only grown wider and recommends that City Hall be replaced or seismically upgraded in the short term.
Changing space needs
When the City Hall main building was built in 1955, Burnaby’s population was 75,000. Today, the population has grown to 249,125 (2021 Census), driving continued growth in City services. Over the last 68 years, City services have long outgrown the building. Today, staff are spread across five buildings making it inconvenient for visitors who often must travel to different buildings to do their business.
The future City Hall needs to be flexible and adaptable to accommodate future changes in services, activities, equipment and technology. Implementing a modular space layout will allow future space configurations allowing adaptability to future workflows. A portion of the building can be designed as post-disaster, facilitating business continuity in the event of a seismic event.
Falls short on environmental sustainability
Sustainable buildings minimize energy and water consumption, use drought resistant and native plant species, as well as efficient irrigation design, and re-use storm and grey water for irrigation.
Energy and mechanical systems play a role in reducing operational emissions and the goal is to make City Hall more energy efficient, eliminating all on-site use of natural gas, choosing a mechanical, electrical and plumbing system with low refrigerant use to reduce Global Warming Potential (GWP) from refrigerant leaks which have a profound negative impact on climate change.
Does not meet accessibility requirements
The existing City Hall is not barrier free and presents accessibility challenges. Areas where staff serve the public are often located away from the main entrances of the buildings, and most are located above the main floor. Public service counters are currently dispersed, with many departments having their own distinctive reception and public service functions.
City Hall facilities should be barrier free and promote access for individuals of all ages and abilities. Consideration for accessibility should be made at building entrances. Corridors should accommodate circulation for two wheelchairs traveling in opposite directions. Spaces should be planned to accommodate seating in addition to circulation requirements for wheelchairs. Future planning should involve consideration for counter heights and other design elements that enable barrier-free access for all.
Wayfinding and signage at City Hall are currently limited. Also, public restrooms are only located at the main floor, forcing the public to return to the main floor to use these facilities.
Does not meet inclusivity requirements
Inclusive washrooms are becoming the norm to accommodate a range of genders, ages and families to be accommodated at municipal facilities. However, there are no universal washrooms at City Hall.
City Hall should be inclusive to all individuals and promote cultural safety. City Hall must welcome individuals speaking a wide variety of languages, representing a broad range of ethnicities, various gender identities, and be welcoming to all cultures.
The plans for City Hall
We’re planning a replacement (or renewed) City Hall in the heart of Burnaby that will be a modern, environmentally sustainable, accessible, inclusive and resilient building that considers current operational and functional workspace needs and the ways residents access City Hall. It will be a facility that will continue to serve the community for future generations.