Holy Trinity Catholic High School

Project Details

Holy Trinity Catholic High School shares a site with the Ecole McTavish Junior High School in the Timberlea subdivision in Fort McMurray. During early design stages, factors such as functional programming, construction techniques and materials, cost effectiveness, optimum siting, and traffic access and building management were utilized. The design for Holy Trinity started with a Post Occupancy Evaluation of St. Martha Catholic School. Areas that functioned similarly such as, administration and classrooms were incorporated into the design though since Holy Trinity is a senior high school, a number of different functional areas had to be incorporated as well. This process involved meeting with the user groups and compiling room data sheets specific to every different type of room.

With the school able to accommodate 1100 students at full capacity, it generated a need for a large school footprint on the chosen site. A large school combined with the extensive parking requirements for a senior high school, would absorb a large portion of the land available; so to reduce the impact of the building on site, 2-storey construction was implemented while allowing for future expansion when required. The school incorporates a “black box theatre” which is a major amenity for the school and the community, capable of supporting professional level productions while permitting a wide range of activities and internal configurations to suit various types of events. The school incorporates numerous features to reduce capital construction costs, ongoing operating and energy costs, and provide long-range durability.

The remoteness of Fort McMurray and the labour shortage in the region was necessary to consider during the design. As an example, pre-cast concrete panels are manufactured off-site reducing on-site labour and to “season-proof” the construction process so that construction could continue in winter conditions. Daylighting within the school has been maximized for energy reduction and psychological reasons.
The overall budget for the school is reflective of the economic climate in Fort McMurray. The challenge of designing to meet program and functional requirements within a reasonable budget demanded a strategy that includes all practical methods of applying value management process.

Holy Trinity is currently targeting LEED Silver.


Holy Trinity is the sister school to the existing Father Mercredi High School located in a nearby sub-division. Where Father Mercredi is science based, the vision for Holy Trinity was to provide amenities for a focus on the arts, with an emphasis on the performing arts. At an early stage of planning, the client, in collaboration with the municipality developed a strategy to build a 350 seat fully equipped professional standard black box theatre.

The opportunity to combine a professional level theatre with the high school was a compelling idea where both students and public could benefit from a joint use facility of this scale and sophistication. Since the budget to achieve this goal was not within the funding provided by Alberta Infrastructure, the bold concept triggered a fund raising drive where initial seed money was provided by the municipality, and was quickly followed by local industry donations.

The school Arts program will be one of the finest in the Province and will enjoy ready access to all the activities and training associated with professional theatre, and the municipality and public benefit from the availability of theatre productions scaled to suit affordable dramatic productions. The intent is that the theatre, along with the supporting art facilities, will also be used by the public.

The advantage to the school is that operational costs for the arts space will be offset by outside revenue, and the municipality benefits by ongoing operation and upkeep being part of the school budget. And of course both parties benefit from a new black box theatre that can be reconfigured numerous ways to suit almost any occasion.