The Ronald McDonald House British Columbia By Michael Green Architecture

Michael Green Architecture (MGA) is renowned for creating projects with individual narratives. In designing the Ronald McDonald House British Columbia, the narrative became literal when Michael Green drew inspiration directly from a children’s story he wrote and illustrated for his own children.


Photography by Ed White.


In the story, a seed is blown onto a high bluff, where, as it grows, it struggles to survive in the harsh mountain conditions. A bird watches over the flower, naming it Alpenglow, unsure of how to help. When it sees ripples in the water, it realizes what can be done. The bird retrieves seeds to ring around the flower. It brings more and more seeds, until the struggling flower is protected from the buffeting winds by the many rings of fellow seeds that protect it, and each other.

For MGA, the ill children are Alpenglow, and the Ronald McDonald House BC plays its part in the series of rings there to protect them.

Located on the grounds of the BC Women's and Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House BC is the home away from home for out-of-town families with seriously ill children receiving treatment at the Hospital.

The project was constructed with the specific intention of not only providing housing, but of building community into the lives of those enduring a common hardship.


Photography by Ema Peter.


Like the seeds, the design centers around children. The concept of concentric rings is emulated throughout Ronald McDonald House BC: there are four house communities, with their own kitchens, and individual common areas and sub-communities on each floor. Links between the houses are facilitated by common dining rooms, one shared between two houses. Outdoor common areas are provided for the residents as a whole. In all, the large facility acts as home for up to seventy-three families, where they can navigate the health and well-being of their children with the support of the cumulative community. 


Photography by Ema Peter.


The Ronald McDonald House BC organically manifests itself as a support network. The extending rings of community continue outward from the house, which is in the middle of the BC Women’s and Children’s Hospital grounds itself, surrounded by Vancouver, BC, and, ultimately, the globe.

The house extends 'rings' in other ways as well. The house is built with Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) - a sustainable construction method - relatively new to North America. Cross-laminating layers of wood into timber panels strengthens them; this allows them to be used in framing, instead of concrete panels. Wood stores carbon, rather than releasing it, as concrete does. Thus, this incredible material contributes to the well-being of our communities by reducing global carbon emissions due to the wood's negative carbon footprint. (Here's another post on CLT on called An Innovative Residence in West Vancouver.)

MGA is a pioneer in North American architecture using CLT. As exemplified by their latest project, the Wood Innovation Design Centre. So far, this building is the tallest all-wood building in the world, standing at six  stories (with its high ceilings and mezzanine level – it has the height of a ten story building). Given the expansion in use of CLT materials, its record is sure to be broken. Perhaps, even by MGA themselves, who have plans for more 15-20 storey all-wood projects.


Photography by Ed White.


Photography by Ema Peter.


Photography by Ed White.


I love stories, in any form. Telling a story through architecture is incredibly innovative and intriguing to me, and is what initially drew me to this project. An immense amount of care, in many aspects of the project, has gone into the Ronald McDonald House BC. Its foundations are a testament to the love, stories, and faith that its inhabitants will be sharing, upon their stays.

See more photographs and details of the Ronald McDonald House BC at Michael Green Architecture.


Photography credits as noted to:

Ed White Photographics

Ema Peter Photography


Researched and Written by Emily E.A. Stringer, Undergraduate of Sociology, and Geography: Environment & Sustainability, from the University of British Columbia.

Posted In: British Columbia

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