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The Sign Challenges of a Arctic Canadian Winter

Selkirk Signs teams with TIR Systems to solve the cold hard challenges of signage for Federated Co-op chain of stores.

By Kimberly Toth

Federated Co-op, one of Western Canada’s largest cooperative retailers, has member retail stores in all western provinces and regions, ranging from the Yukon Territory in the north, Kenora, Ontario in the east and extending across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia. Through Arctic Co-operatives Limited, it also has a network of member Co-ops supplying products and services to Arctic communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

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  • Project Background
    TIR Systems has been working through Selkirk Signs and Services Ltd., Cranbrook, B.C. to supply Federated Co-operatives RPE Division with its LightMark border-tubing product to delineate its retail stores and car wash buildings.

    This program has been going successfully, with Federated Co-op happy with the product’s capabilities and performance, and a motivated partner in Selkirk Signs. The program has grown over the last two years and this collaboration and experience has resulted in the opportunity to retrofit a targeted test site at the Arctic Co-operatives Limited member Co-op location in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

    What the wanted
    Winter temperatures and conditions in the Arctic are extreme ­ too cold for neon - the cost of which becomes prohibitive for shipping new units or repairing existing ones.

    Until now the Arctic Co-ops have had nothing more than outdoor wall lighting units illuminating the sides of their buildings. The only signage that would survive the cold has been non-illuminated vinyl graphics or paint on plywood.

    The Arctic is also becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination. As such, business is growing to include hotels and other tourist amenities. Increasing competition means that businesses need an enhanced corporate image to stand out and succeed in the northern marketplace.

    Solution and implementation
    TIR’s LightMark and LightScript products were chosen for installation at the Arctic Co-op pilot site as these LED-based systems excel in harsh wintry conditions when brightness stays consistent and longevity improves. Selkirk Signs played an integral role in the implementation of TIR’s products. With their experience of lit signage solutions, they were able to suggest modifications to both LightMark and LightScript, ensuring their ability to function in cold temperatures. Wiring was upgraded to a more cold-resistant standard, and this advance has been replicated across the LightMark and LightScript product lines.

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    Red and green LightMark border tubes were mounted around the exterior of the Co-op building, and red LightScript was used to illuminate the red Co-op channel lettering on two elevations of the building.

    The implementation window is very short each year. As the weather warms, installers have between July and October to undertake any work that needs to be completed before the freeze begins again. At the Rankin Inlet site both the LightMark and LightScript systems were installed before the winter of 2004-05 and reports indicate that there were no failures during the season. This is the best possible testament to the robust designs of LightMark and LightScript and to the service and consultative expertise of Selkirk Signs.

    There are additional benefits to using LightMark over the more traditional neon solution. The daytime color of LightMark is not compromised as LightMark’s extrusion maintains its bold color and appealing appearance even when switched off.

    The daytime color of the signage is important in the Arctic due to the exceptionally long summer days in the north. Similarly, in the wintertime, when conditions are dark for much of the day, the bright illuminated signage stands out during the long nights. As well, the durability of the extrusion is crucial to maintaining a fully functioning installation. LightMark was again the right solution with its tough, resilient GE LEXAN® polycarbonate extrusion that is highly resistant to damage through weather events or vandalism.

    Selkirk Signs’ experience with TIR’s products means that they are in a unique position to give feedback on product performance as well as instruct and mentor installation teams in the field. The company is receptive to its customers and imaginative in determining how to advance its products to best meet the needs of the customer.

    “Working with TIR has shown us that when there is a possibility to improve their product, and ensure that the product will function as required and designed, they will test and implement it. Selkirk’s suggestions for improving the product for Arctic conditions has led to engineering modifications that mean that the product is applicable to a broader base of our customers, said Ken Doggart, Project Coordinator, Selkirk Signs.

    Bob Mowat, Arctic Co-operatives Limited’s Property Department Manager reports, “our initial experience with this product has been very positive from an installation, maintenance and durability standpoint. Operating costs are also reasonable considering the high cost of electricity in the north. The local Co-operative in Rankin Inlet, NU is also very pleased with the enhanced image of their retail facility.”

    The Future
    As a result of the successful pilot site in Rankin Inlet, Arctic Co-operatives Limited has arranged for two other member retail sites to be installed with LightMark and LightScript: Cambridge Bay, on Victoria Island at 70 degrees latitude north and Kugaaruk, Nunavut, at 67 degrees latitude north.

    Additionally, Inns North, the hotel and tourism program of the Arctic Co-operatives system has been monitoring the performance of TIR’s products and has since contacted Selkirk Signs for more information on this product. After reviewing the information Inns North has placed a separate order for six sets of “Inns North” blue channel letters utilizing TIR’s blue LightScript LED modules.

    TIR Systems, a world leader in light-enabling technology, is building the foundations for tomorrow’s lighting. Through sound innovation and proven technical capability, TIR is developing, designing and marketing the core technologies that will allow Solid State Lighting (SSL) to move to the forefront of mainstream lighting. To find out more about TIR Systems Ltd., visit

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