Milton Catholic School brings light and life to community

Milton’s $29 million Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School opened in September, the first for the southern Ontario community since 1988.

Snyder Architects designed the 191,000 sq. ft. structure, built by Tambro Construction. It includes a three storey academic wing, a two storey sports and theatre complex and a central atrium.

Milton Catholic School

Tambro general manager Bert Tami says Tambro had responsibility for managing the site, along with Snyder Architects, and that the company’s other role involved subcontractor work including miscellaneous metals, excavation, backfill, and some miscellaneous tasks including carpentry.

Tami says a fast track approach combined with an aggressive timetable made coordinating the various trades and scheduling a challenge.

Principal architect Avinash Garde says light plays an integral part in the school’s design. “The design was centred around light and spirit – daylight floods the school, through the gyms and the atrium, through the hallways and the glass wall of the cafeteria creating visual connections and imparting transparency to the spaces.”

Garde says this effect has been achieved through energy-efficient translucent wall panels used extensively in the gyms and part of the chapel to bring abundant yet soft daylight into the interior. He says this system eliminates glare while minimizing heat loss or gain. It also connects these school features from the exterior, marking them as community assets.

Classrooms and stairwells also feature large windows and abundant natural light.


He describes the atrium as the hub of activity “simulating a ‘main street’ ambiance” and playing a key role in fostering the school community’s spirit and culture. The chapel, a key Catholic school feature, is clad in stone and wood to mark its importance to the school community. “Every school needs some fun and whimsical design elements,” says Garde. “The atrium ‘street’ ambiance is reinforced by a street-side cafe with outdoor wood railings and barn board accents. Bright orange and red floor tiles in the atrium express the prevailing geographical latitude and longitude of the location – to know your place in the world and to guide lost souls.”

Garde says two of the project’s greatest challenges were meeting the extremely tight schedule and ensuring the ambitious design agenda could be delivered within the budget. “Both of these challenges were sought to be met by employing our ‘Architect-Managed Project’ delivery method, which is an enhanced construction management system pioneered by Snyder Architects for ensuring controlled outcomes with reduced risk.”

“The subtrade packages on this project were tendered through the architect who was also involved with the day to day management of the project,” says Tami. “I would hope that the spirit of cooperation and fellowship we experienced throughout the construction process will continue for the students and staff.”

The school boasts two full gymnasiums with a surrounding second floor track, a full fitness gym and windows intended to flood the space with natural light.

Special-use classrooms include an auto shop, a design and build technology shop and a state-of-the-art kitchen.

Classrooms opposite the 350-seat theatre have been specially designed to allow students to study lighting and set design and two adjoining music rooms have wall baffles for better acoustics. The arts classroom includes a pottery kiln and there is a special dance studio.


Outside, the school has several sports fields, a sculpture court and a projects court to display student works. Traffic, always a challenge in school settings, has been stream lined by dividing the available parking into several smaller lots. In association with the Town of Milton, the site also sports a field house and air supported structure for recreational sports activities in winter.

While the school initially welcomed more than 560 students in grades 9 through 11, grade 12 classes will be offered next year and the school has the capacity to serve more than 1,400 as the community grows.

 Canadian Design and Construction Report – Winter 2014