Agenda Index City of Vancouver




Vancouver City Council


City Clerk, in consultation with the Managers of Facilities Development and Building Management


Upgrades to the Council Chamber






There is no Council Policy related to this matter.


This report responds to Council's instruction of March 3, 1998 that the City Clerk report back on ways to provide a more modern facility for meetings of Council, particularly with respect to delegations and audio-visual presentations in the Council Chamber.


The Council Chamber was installed as part of the original construction of Vancouver City Hall in 1936. The last major upgrade provided an improved sound system in the Council Chamber in May 1980. Facilities and equipment installed for use in the Chamber have remained essentially unchanged since that time. While considered "state of the art" when installed, these systems have surpassed their anticipated life expectancy and no longer meet the current needs and expectations of Council and the public.

In 1995, Council approved a general upgrading program for the public space on the third floor of City Hall, including conversion of Committee Room No. 3 into offices for the Councillors' Secretariat and conversion of the existing Secretariat into a smaller Committee Room. A sound system was also installed in Committee Room No. 1. At the same time, Council instructed staff to explore the options for a larger Committee Room within City Hall or in close proximity to City Hall.

The 1997-1999 Capital Plan included provision for a new multi-purpose room in the space occupied by Information Technology in the City Hall sub-ground. However, prior to that facility being developed, Council reallocated the funding to relocate Information Technology to the West Annex. The intention is to re-introduce the option for a fully equipped multi-purpose room in planning for the 2000-2002 Capital Plan.


Although the Council Chamber provided for the needs of Council for many years, it is becoming increasingly difficult as a venue for the current demands being placed on it. There is insufficient space to properly accommodate the large public meetings that are increasingly common in the Chamber and the facility is poorly laid out and equipped to handle the audio-visual presentations increasingly used by staff and the public. A review of the chamber and other third floor meeting space, identified a number of deficiencies:

Council Chamber

Deficiencies in the Council Chamber relate to the physical space and to presentation systems available in the room:

· Audio-visual presentations in the Council Chamber must use portable equipment which is often unreliable. Presentations cannot be picked up directly by the media.
· Sound levels and quality are difficult to control with the existing sound system. There are several "dead spots" in the Chamber, notably desks of the Mayor and City Clerk.
· Rogers Television has advised of poor sound transmission due to excessive "white noise" generated in the existing sound system.
· Current television lighting uses High Intensity Discharge (H.I.D.) fixtures filled with a gas which requires time to cool off before refiring. Consequently, the lighting can not be easily turned on and off for presentations, causing delays in Council and problems for television coverage.
· Sight lines within the Chamber could be improved for audio-visual presentations.
· Communication between the Mayor and City Clerk is difficult due to the physical placement of the City Clerk in front of and below the Mayor's dais.
· The current layout does not provide adequate space for the media. The public area is cramped for large delegations.

Committee Rooms

Committee rooms in City Hall are heavily booked and unable to accommodate large public meetings. As with the Council Chamber, the problems arise from physical limitations of the space and from the systems which support effective meetings. The committee rooms are not equipped with audio-video equipment for making presentations. Limited equipment is available from the City Clerk's Office but it is older and often unreliable.

There is a need to improve display systems and storage and the furniture in several rooms is due for refinishing or replacement. Several improvements have been requested to environmental controls on the third floor. These items are upgrades to the base building system which will be dealt with through normal capital improvement requests in 1999.

Future Multi-Purpose Committee Room

A search for permanent meeting space in City Hall identified the Information Technology space on the sub-ground as the only column-free space with sufficient height and area available. A proposal has been developed for a multi-purpose meeting facility which can accommodate up to 200 people, be sub-dividable and provide breakout rooms. The room would also be fully equipped with audio-visual equipment to facilitate a wide range of presentation media. A schematic design is attached as Appendix A.

The project was included in the 1997-1999 Capital Plan. However, the need to move Information Technology to the new West Annex, and thereby free the space, required reallocation of the funding for the new room and Council approved a delay in the development until the next Capital Plan. In the meantime, the space is being used as a staff training centre for the new core information system (SAP). This interim use will be completed in time for the multi-purpose room proposal to be included in planning for the 2000-2002 Capital Plan.

When this facility is developed, it will meet many of the needs of Council, including serving as an alternate location for regular Council meetings. However, it will not completely address the shortage of meeting space in City Hall, nor the immediate need to address existing deficiencies. Hence, the need for improvements to the existing Council Chamber is being considered at this time.

Options for Improving the Existing Council Chamber

Conceptual designs and budget estimates have been prepared to upgrade audio-visual and television lighting systems in the Council Chamber. These options range from improvements to correct sound problems and provide audio-visual equipment for use by staff and the public (Option A) to more comprehensive renovations including sound, lighting systems and modifications to furnishings in the room (Option B). The question of which option to pursue should be made in the context of the future plans for the multi-purpose room which will be designed to include the full range of options presented here.

Staff suggest two "packages" of upgrade for the Council Chamber. The proposed options and corresponding cost estimates are as follows:

Option A - Replace existing sound system, purchase a/v projector and screen $75,000

Option B - Significant upgrades to systems $300,000

There are two additional improvements which Council may wish to consider in the future, a system of motorized blackout drapery at a estimated cost of $40,000 and an in-house video display/recording system at an estimated cost of $30,000. Blackout draperies will allow the room to be darkened completely and easily for presentations at any time of the day. The need for this expenditure should be reviewed once new presentation equipment is installed.

An in-house video display/recording system will allow video recording and distribution ofany event in the chamber or committee rooms throughout the cable network in the City Hall precinct. Every meeting could be recorded with or without Rogers involvement.

Heritage Considerations

City Hall is municipally-designated as an "A" heritage building with the Council Chamber being an important interior. The heritage planner has been consulted with respect to contemplated upgrades in the chamber. Many of the proposed improvements are electrical and sound system upgrades which will have no physical impact on heritage elements or aspects of the interior. Nonetheless, when detail designs and specifications are ready, further heritage review and comments will be sought.


Improvements to civic buildings, including City Hall, are generally funded from the Capital Budget. As there is no available funding in the 1998 Capital Budget, should Council wish to proceed with these upgrades, a commitment of the 1999 Supplementary Capital Budget will be necessary, with interim funding from Revenue Surplus. The 1999 Supplementary Capital Budget will have $1.7 million available.


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