Angus, Ontario, January 21, 2014 — Our Lady of Grace Catholic School was granted occupancy earlier this week. The new school building was met with happy tears and excitement, as staff set up for the upcoming school opening.
Snyder Architects was retained by the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board to design Our Lady of Grace Catholic School as a state-of-the-art school for the mind, body and spirit. The atrium acts as the connection point at which these elements combine to express school identity – student-centred Catholic education. The classrooms and library represent he mind; the gym, play areas and fields the body; and a chapel and Catholic design features reflect the spirit of the school.
The school features a profound introduction of natural light both within classrooms and common spaces. The light filled atrium connects the gym and administrative half of the school with the classroom block. It is a centre hall visually linking the front entrance with street and parking to the rear entrances and playground. Atrium light spills through the library and chapel, fostering a sense of vitality and community. Building elements are designed around this central hub of activity and school culture.
The school occupies a challenging site; with part of it on the floor plane and the associated complexities of getting approvals from the planning and conservation authorities.
Without taking a single foot of space away from the program spaces, efficiency is achieved by fulfilling programmatic needs so savings can be reinvested into the school – we call this ‘savings by design’. We employed a structural strategy by stacking regular building elements such as classrooms in a simple cost-effective way.
This allowed efficient academic programming with regards to travel distances, circulation and zoning within the school. Primary occupies the ground floor with intermediate and senior grades on the second floor. This was particularly advantageous in light of full day kindergarten. OLG also allows students to move around in short distances.
Shorter corridors maximize the natural daylight and only require two stairs due to the travel distance and building code. This resulted in savings as stairs are expensive elements to design and build. Also, this configuration is future proof and easy to add to without disrupting the rest of the school.
As well, the school employs a fairly simple mechanical VAV design with reheat – a great solution because it does not require intense intervention. It is standard and easy to maintain and operate. The system includes CO² monitoring to automate healthy air quality in a simple way. All system designs are inspired by simplicity and operational ease.
OLG is designed for learning beyond the classroom in the digital age. The library acts as a learning forum in the heart of the school, working in conjunction with the atrium to engage students and the larger community. It’s more than a place for books it’s a centre for independent learning.