Innovative design at Ronald McDonald House Toronto helps parents rest easy

Ronald McDonald House Toronto (RMH Toronto) has collaborated with Montgomery Sisam Architects to develop an innovative Family Roomthat provides a healing environment to parents at a time when they need it the most.

The Ronald McDonald Family Room at SickKids is an extension of RMH Toronto – providing a home away from home for parents, just steps away from where their seriously ill child is being treated. Like other Family Rooms, the one at SickKids is equipped with televisions and a fireplace lounge area, a kitchenette stocked with beverages and snacks, computers with Wi-Fi, shower facilities, laundry facilities and a play area for siblings.

But the challenge for the design team was how to enable as many parents as possible to comfortably sleep given the limitations of the 1,725-square-foot space. SickKids is a busy hospital, with many families who need the support a Family Room can provide.

The design concept borrows from the idea of sleeping compartments in executive class airliners to include small, private pods for parents to sleep without distraction.

“Parents often sleep – anxious and uncomfortably – in chairs or at the foot of the bed in their children’s room,” says Jane Marco, CEO of RMH Toronto. “Providing a space for a few uninterrupted hours of sleep is a great benefit to parents in a hospital.”

With the innovative sleeping pods, a low, wood-panelled wall curves around fully reclining easy chairs to create seven small, private pods. Each pod is equipped with task lighting, an outlet to charge a cellphone or plug in a laptop, a place to hang a coat and a shelf for small belongings.

“These pods provide privacy, comfort and security in a very efficient layout to maximize the number of people who can sleep in a relatively small space,” says Robert Davies, principal of Montgomery Sisam. “They also provide a sense of community. You fall asleep knowing that every other parent in the room shares some of your experience.”

The room is equipped with low level lighting at the base of the walls – enough to guide the way but not enough to disturb sleep. In addition, an electric fireplace in the room provides comfort and warmth.

Since its recent opening, the sleep pods in the Family Room at SickKids have been used more than 1,900 times by families – a few times for as long as 13 hours.

“At SickKids, we are committed to delivering child and family-centred care and our patients and their families are at the core of everything that we do,” says Pam Hubley, chief of Professional Practice & Nursing at SickKids. “With our partnership, we have created a space that will help meet the needs of many families well into the future.”

RMH Toronto and Montgomery Sisam are currently designing two Family Rooms at the Rouge Valley Health System; they are scheduled to open in spring 2015.

ABOUT RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE TORONTO For more than 30 years, Ronald McDonald House Toronto has been fulfilling its mission to provide a home away from home for seriously ill children and their families to heal better together. Ronald McDonald House Toronto offers a place for sleeping, schooling, working, cooking and playing. It also provides vital programs that help sick children, their siblings and their parents get to a better place emotionally. Ronald McDonald House Toronto recently expanded its mission to include Family Rooms.

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ABOUT MONTGOMERY SISAM ARCHITECTS Montgomery Sisam Architects is committed to design quality that is rooted in the belief that buildings and their environments must play a dignified and lasting role for their occupants and the surrounding community. Founded in 1978, Montgomery Sisam is a mid-sized Canadian architectural practice wholly owned by its five principals and based in Toronto, Ontario. The practice provides clients with a full range of services including master planning, architecture, interior design and urban design. The wide range of project types and scales include healthcare, infrastructure, educational, recreational and residential projects.

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