‘Going Green’ Boosts the Environment of Toronto’s Mentally ILL


Environmental Retrofit of landmark Church Street mental health centre becomes key to meeting increased demands for service

Toronto, April 24, 2008 — For decades, Progress Place rehabilitation centre has been investing in programs that provide a positive environment for people living with serious mental illness. Every year, there are 55,000 visits to the Church Street centre, just north of Wellesley. Now, that positive ‘environment’ has taken on a whole new meaning, as the centre uses an environmentally conscious retrofit of its building as a way to help serve more people in the community.

Above is the introduction to a press release for an open house on May 7 2008, at Progress Place attended by Provincial Health Minister George Smitherman. In mid 2007 Signature Electric was contacted by Ivan Lewis at Progress Place, portions of the facility were undergoing an addition that would improve the facility for it’s clients. Efforts had been made in the planning to allow the new addition to be as “green” as possible. There was a large part of the building that was not part of the new construction and Ivan asked us to make some suggestions to see where we could improve the energy efficiency of this older part of the building in keeping with their new greener initiative.

Once we had toured the building a number of different opportunities presented themselves. The existing building had standard four lamp T-12 recessed fixtures. Refurbishing the fixtures with new electronic T-8 ballasts and lamps allowed for improved lighting and energy savings. The new ballast and lamps had the side benefit of reducing the need to stock two types of lamps and since all the lamps and ballast in the building were new, they could expect a savings in maintenance for some time to come.

Another maintenance issue was the exit and emergency lighting. The existing exit lights were using incandescent lamps with a life of 2 to 8 months. In addition to the waste of energy, the cost of replacement lamps and the labour to install them can add up to $24 per year per sign, not to mention increasing the risk of having a sign out of order at the wrong time.

The solution was to replace all the exit signs with new Lumacell light-emitting diode (LED) exit signs. They use only 5 watts of power per surface and cost less than $5 per year to operate, depending on the local utility costs. Because LEDs also last considerably longer than incandescent lamps, life cycle savings are dramatic. Over a 10-year period, first costs, energy expenditures, and maintenance requirements for an incandescent sign could run about $570, depending on local conditions, whereas a comparable LED unit with a 10-year life would incur overall costs of about $125.

In some cases lights were left on all day in areas that were not continually occupied. These included some of the washrooms and offices. The office area was “bulk switched”, meanings that while the open office area lights were on, so were adjacent exterior offices and storage areas. Ivan was of the opinions that if the occupants of the offices had switches that they would voluntarily turn off the lights when they were out of the room. The solution here was a simple and inexpensive addition a switch for each office.

The washrooms needed a different solution since Progress Place clients used these. Each washroom was outfitted with a Watt Stopper wall mounted occupancy sensor allowing the lights to go off automatically when the room was vacant.

Progress Place says that these energy efficient changes are “playing a big part not only in creating a warm atmosphere for its users but also in making program funding stretch to meet growing demands”.  Signature Electric is proud to have been able to assist this important community organization to meet its goals.