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Playful Colours Lift Family Spirits at Ronald McDonald House

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) provides an important resource for families with critically ill children: free housing and meals for families staying near medical centers while their children are receiving medical treatment. Many of the facilities are expanding, including RMHC of Cincinnati, Ohio, with a $42 million USD addition and renovation that makes it the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world.

The colourful courtyard at the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo:

In many cities, especially those with prominent children’s hospitals, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) have become important resources for families with critically ill children. RMHC, a global organization with nearly 370 lodging facilities, including 10 in Canada, offers housing and meals to families at no cost while their children are receiving medical treatment. It’s not surprising that these facilities often don’t have enough room to serve all who want it, which is why a number are now pursuing expansion. The most prominent of these projects is in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a $42 million USD addition and renovation that more than doubled the space to 177 rooms, making it the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world.

Offering Families a Breath of Fresh Air

While the exterior of the renovated and expanded structure is primarily masonry to blend in with the surrounding Avondale neighbourhood, the courtyard created by the L-shaped design is a study in fun. Here, designers with the local firm GBBN Architects clad the walls in metal panels that provide pops of playful colour – two shades of green and one of yellow – around all the window openings and from top to bottom on one inset wall. They provide a backdrop for a recreation area and fountain to give guests access to outdoor space (the building also incorporates a rooftop terrace for more fresh air).

Custom Parakeet Yellow offers a bright pop of colour in contrast to the masonry facade. Photo:
A Landmark at Home with its Surroundings

“GBBN, in collaboration with Ronald McDonald House, sought an approach integrating the existing wide range of urban scales of the immediate context,” says Scott Kyle, a GBBN associate and designer on the project. That context included two Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center towers to the west and south of the building, single-family homes to the north and mid-level office and parking structures to the east. These surroundings had to be taken into account, along with the existing RMHC structure to which this new build would be attached.

“The resulting exterior design included a more rectilinear, masonry, regular-windowed street-style façade coupled with a more organic, playful, colourful metal-panel courtyard façade,” Kyle says. “The courtyard façade took its cues from the life-affirming garden elements of the courtyard.”

A number of factors came into play in creating patterning of the metal panels, he adds. “The large façade surfaces are broken down into smaller, scalable modules to make up the playful whole. The panelization takes into account standard panel lengths, installation methods and expansion and contraction – the horizontal joints incorporated into the system illustrate this integration.”

The playful patterning takes its inspiration from the life-affirming courtyard garden. Photo:
Soothing Grey and Green Tones, Sparked with Sunny Yellow

GBBN’s designers specified Petersen’s PAC-CLAD products to create the unique exteriors framing the courtyard. These included approximately 22,000 sq. ft. (2,043 m2) of the company’s Flush wall panels in a mix of Cityscape – a gray tone that creates a neutral background – along with Patina Green, Teal and the custom yellow Parakeet for the striping that surrounds the windows. An additional 860 sq. ft. (80 m2) of Petersen’s Snap-Clad roof panels were used to create a canopy for the facility’s 7th-story rooftop gathering space.

Pros with Cleves, Ohio’s Neiheisel Steel handled the courtyard wall-panel installation, which was a bit of a landmark project for the firm. “This is the biggest metal panel job we’ve worked on,” says project manager Scott Neiheisel, who adds that Petersen’s local rep, Rick Carpenter, provided significant assistance. “Rick was awesome to deal with – he was huge in our success,” Neiheisel says. “Not only did he know the panels, he was also very helpful in terms of getting drawings done, along with every detail you run into on the job.”

Still, Neiheisel’s team had its challenges – notably the need to work from lifts instead of being able to use staging. “There were certain elevations where we had to bring in 135-ft. lifts,” he says. “Lifts aren’t as efficient as stages – they bounce and move in the wind.”

 A Welcoming Space that Families Can Call Home

The added effort has paid off, though, in the reactions of all involved, including Cincinnati-based Messer, the general contractor, a fact Kyle attributes to teamwork. “The final product was truly a collaboration by the owner, architect, engineers and contractors,” he says. “It has been extremely well-received by the owner, the neighbourhood and, most importantly, the guest families calling RMHC Cincinnati home.”

Durable, Lasting Colour

PAC-CLAD finishes are available in a wide spectrum of standard colours, including brilliant metallics, sophisticated wood grains and rich ores. All finishes are Fluropon® 70% PVDF coatings made with Kynar 500® resin, and are backed by an outstanding non-prorated warranty against chipping, chalking, peeling and fading. Most colours meet LEED requirements and are Cool Roof-rated.

 About PAC-CLAD | Petersen

PAC-CLAD | Petersen, a Carlisle Company, manufactures architectural metal products for virtually every residential and commercial building need. PAC-CLAD brand metal cladding systems include hidden- and exposed-fastener metal wall panels, standing-seam roof panels, flush panels, soffit panels, perforated metal, fascia and coping systems, composite panels and column covers, along with coil and flat sheet materials. Petersen was founded in 1965 in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, and now operates fabrication plants in Illinois, Georgia, Texas, Maryland, Arizona and Washington State. Our broad network of manufacturing plants and PAC-CLAD representatives serve architects and installers across the U.S. and Canada.

To learn more about architectural metal systems offered in a wide range of brilliant finishes, visit You can also use our website to find a local representative or schedule a virtual meeting.