New Light on 50-year-old Hart House Pool

Hart House pool skylight

Swimmers know the joy of gliding beneath the beautiful arched skylight over the Hart House pool. As we prepared for our 100thanniversary, we discovered that the pool, which is only half that age, required some much-needed attention.

Of all the high-priority projects Jimmy Cheung, our new Director of Facilities and Capital Project, was tasked with the pool skylight was one of the trickiest. The 405 fiberglass panels were warped and discoloured after decades of moisture, wear and tear, and worst of all, heat. The high, arched ceiling could reach temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius. Adjust for humidity, and those tiles had withstood 52-degree heat for half a century.

panel pulling away from framewarping panels from aboveLooking up at the panels, Jimmy could see that limited light was able to penetrate through the darkened panes, and the warping had caused some panels to pull away from their frames. Previous assessments had indicated that, barring any earthquakes or meteorites, the panels were not at risk of falling down. But they did look precarious, and Jimmy wasn’t willing to test his luck.

All the panels would need to be replaced with acrylic glass, which was lightweight, transparent, easy to fabricate, and most importantly, resistant to high-heat. Various grades and types were available and Jimmy ordered four samples for comparison. He had them installed in the skylight to make side-by-side, in situ comparisons. He selected a high-performance Plexiglas® that had the best transparency for optimum light transmission.

Safety was always a top priority for Jimmy and he wanted to ensure that the new panels would stay in place well beyond the next 50 years. He devised a system to tether each panel in place. To help him with this exacting job, he called upon Rope Access Maintenance (RAM), a multipurpose trade company that specializes in working in difficult to access, high altitude areas such as oil rigs, water towers, and the Hart House pool skylight.


Jimmy Cheung has over 20 years of experience working in a series of progressive positions focused on mechanical processes and engineering with such employers as Woodbridge Foam Corporation and Southwire Canada. His experience includes being the mechanical project leader in the construction of five manufacturing plants and equipment retrofit projects at 42 global facilities. Prior to his arrival at Hart House, Jimmy was Director of Facilities and Engineering at the CN Tower which, like Hart House, is designated a heritage building.


If you are a U of T student or Hart House member, we invite you to take a swim and see the results of the restoration for yourself. If you’re not yet a member, try us out with a 2-week free membership. A variety of swimming classes, free drop-in Aqua-fit and open swim hours are offered seven days a week. Check our website for pool hours.


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