W. Ross Macdonald School

 / Lighting


Greg Poste, Josh Bedard / MMMC Architects

W. Ross Macdonald School
Vibrant colour outlines the doors to each living pod so that students can easily identify their apartment. Black tile at the meeting of horizontal and vertical planes indicates the width of the hallway, and a one-metre-high “trail rail” guides blind and low-vision residents safely throughout the school.

“A significant percent of the students have some vision and for those students the lighting is something that we focused on a great deal. We wanted to make certain that we’re providing light bright enough for them to navigate but not so intense that it will prevent them from navigating through the space effectively,”

– Aaron Moffatt, Co-ordinator of Operations and Support Services, OME

Barrier free navigation aids students

Because many people with low vision are light sensitive, great consideration was given to lighting. An atrium rises up through the centre of the linear building, bringing light into its central hub. Glass block is used to let light flow from the atrium into more private spaces, and floor-to-ceiling glass curtain walls in the student lounges feature light-diffusing glaze. As well, all artificial lighting is dim-able, to customize light levels for different individuals and activities.

“Everyone in our whole design team could have been absolutely in love with a floor finish, but if it rendered itself a barrier to the students, the orientation and mobility staff quickly spoke up and it wasn’t even an option anymore.” – Josh Bedard, Architect, MMC Architects

The building’s main way finding tool is a smooth, black “trail rail” that runs along every wall. It allows students to independently move through the hallways, which are built at right angles, with no surprising twists or turns. The corridors feature high-contrast colours to identify where the floor meets the wall, and the entryway to each pod is painted a different, bright hue. For students with canes, all flooring was tested for its ability to reflect their tapping off adjacent walls and other surfaces.