Canadian Architect

Feature

Governor General’s Medal Winner: Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon

WINNER OF A 2016 GOVERNOR GENERAL’S MEDAL IN ARCHITECTURE

May 19, 2016
by Canadian Architect

Apartments are grouped in four house-like forms, each of which enjoys shared indoor and outdoor living rooms. Photo by Ed White.

Apartments are grouped in four house-like forms, each of which enjoys shared indoor and outdoor living rooms. Photo by Ed White.

LOCATION Vancouver, British Columbia
ARCHITECT MGA—Michael Green Architecture (project commenced
by mcfarlane | green | biggar architecture + design)

Ronald McDonald House BC (RMHBC) provides a home for families whose children are receiving treatment at BC Children’s Hospital. From the outset, the design team sought to create a solution that would feel like a home and not a hotel. The architect’s ambition was to preserve the nurturing, closely bonded social connections found in the former RMHBC 12-family house with the design of this new 73-family facility. The design focused on inclusiveness and community-oriented spatial strategies.

The site, located on the edge of the hospital’s grounds, borders a suburban-scale neighbourhood. The architecture bridges between the quiet residential fabric and the institutional architecture of the hospital. The building forms are accessible and driven by modesty, endurance and a warm aesthetic. Iron-spot brick is used to durably protect a highly innovative structure of mass timber walls and light wood floor construction. A carbon-neutral embodied footprint enhances the performance of the building, which exceeds LEED Gold standards.

Natural materials and soft colours contribute to a soothing environment in the dining rooms. Photo by Ema Peter Photography.

Natural materials and soft colours contribute to a soothing environment in the dining rooms. Photo by Ema Peter Photography.

The design layers various spaces to help families find solace and community as they endure significantly challenging moments with their severely sick children. The design breaks down into four “houses” stitched together with common areas—dining rooms, living rooms and courtyards. Each house provides its own identity, with interior colour and wayfinding devices suitable to the diverse ages and backgrounds of kids, from toddlers to teens. An internal ground level “house loop” connects all communal areas, from inside to outside to inside again. Space is arranged to enhance shared-parenting opportunities, with courtyards wrapped by living and dining rooms to contain toddlers, and increasingly independent play spaces for older children located further from the heart of the building.

Conceptually, the architecture forms concentric rings. The rings begin with the sick child and family, growing spatially: from the individual suites, to the six families sharing each floor of a house, to the 18 families sharing the kitchen and living room of each house, to the 36 families that bring together two houses in a shared dining room, and finally to the ring of all 73 families, brought together in the central living room and courtyards. Places to retreat and find quiet time are complemented by ever-larger gathering areas that help build community and shared support.

A string of communal areas knit together the four houses on the ground floor. Iron spot brick provides a durable façade, protecting the prefabricated CLT panels that form the building’s primary structural system. Photo by Ema Peter Photography.

A string of communal areas knit together the four houses on the ground floor. Iron spot brick provides a durable façade, protecting the prefabricated CLT panels that form the building’s primary structural system. Photo by Ema Peter Photography.

The architect introduced significant innovations in mass timber architecture by developing a hybrid CLT wall and TJI floor structure. This is the first example globally of a tilt-up CLT and light-wood-frame construction, and its century-plus durability will keep costs down for the charity. The wood innovations in the project are important milestones for institutional construction, while remaining a subtext to the profoundly important nature of the service Ronald McDonald House provides to the region.

:: Jury :: This Ronald McDonald House plays an important role in the daily lives of families with children receiving cancer treatment. Although the building accommodates 73 families, it feels more like a large home than a hospital hotel. The architecture has warmth, using familiar domestic materials and a human scale. The structure is broken into four modules, each with connections to create common areas where people can socialize as well as private spaces for families to be alone. It is a comforting environment for families who are away from their homes for extensive periods, and a model for other such facilities.

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CLIENT Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon | ARCHITECT TEAM Michael Green, Justin Bennett, Natalie Telewiak, Mingyuk Chen, Kristen Jamieson, Asher deGroot, Jordan VanDijk, Nick Foster, Adam Jennings, Seng Tsoi, Jing Xu, Susan Scott | STRUCTURAL Equilibrium Consulting Inc. | MECHANICAL AME Consulting Group Ltd. | ELECTRICAL Applied Engineering Solutions Ltd. | CONTRACTOR ITC Construction Group | CIVIL Aplin & Martin Consultants Ltd. | GEOTECHNICAL EXP Services Inc. | LANDSCAPE PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc. | INTERIORS MGA—Michael Green Architecture | CODE GHL Consultants Ltd. | BUILDING ENVELOPE RDH Building Science Inc. | ACOUSTIC BKL Consultants Ltd. | FF&E MGA—Michael Green Architecture | CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT ITC Construction Group | SUSTAINABILITY Kane Consulting Partnership | WAYFINDING MGA—Michael Green Architecture | OWNER REPRESENTATIVE Andrew Wade | AREA 8,361 m2 | BUDGET $24 M |  COMPLETION July 2014