St. Johns parishioners who attend evening services and events in the nave have long been aware of how difficult it is to see and to read lessons and bulletins.  Indeed, lighting has even been difficult in morning services, particularly on cloudy and rainy days in fall and winter.  Only one of the existing house lights is operative.

The problem is so severe that many people have identified the one or two small areas where lights are bright enough to read, so evening events are marked by the sight of small clumps of people gathered around these few areas while the rest of the group sits in the dark.

It is next to impossible to use lighting effects of any kind during Advent or Christmas special services which require lighting changes or candle light segments.  Previous studies have also indicated possible unsafe electrical conditions related to lighting.

In order to deal with this situation, the property committee struck an ad hoc subcommittee to research St. John’s electrical and lighting problems in our worship space and to make recommendations regarding a solution.

The committee members were:

  • Tony Barlow – chair
  • David Stratkauskas
  • Barry Salter
  • Daniel Nadeau
  • Deborah Braithwaite
  • Duane Lecky
  • Al Lehmann

The Diocese has been kept apprised of the committee’s work and progress.

In March 2017, Parish Council approved the terms of reference for the Lighting Committee and in October 2017 approved funds for the hiring of a lighting engineer. The engineering firm of AES Engineering Ltd of Victoria was hired to work with the parish in problem identification, resolution and design of a new lighting system.

The project began by collecting and examining historical reports (e.g. the Genivar Electrical Condition Report of 2010) and anecdotal information to begin a list of problems.  Briefs were also prepared which outlined our needs, issues and concerns for various parish events during the year.  These were shared with the diocese and the engineer.

Church Activities which require light control:

  • Worship service at 10:00 a.m. requires limited lighting assistance
  • Evensong
  • Weddings and funerals
  • Taize services
  • Special services including Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday First Fire, Easter Day
  • Baptisms
  • Church meetings and presentations
  • Choir rehearsals
  • Christmas pageant
  • Lay activities such as chamber and choral concerts

Existing Lighting Problems

  • Safety Concerns: The Genivar Electrical Condition Report dated March 2010 states:
    • “The existing hydro service was installed in 1982”
    • “All four of the panel boards in the original church were installed in the early1960s and have reached the end of their life expectancy.  Circuit breakers are now approximately 50 years old… it is likely that many of them have been affected by multiple tripping over many years of operation (We commonly use circuit breakers as on/off switches when setting lighting for services.)”
    • “It may be impossible to add or replace circuit breakers to the existing panel boards as the manufacturer… no longer exists.”
    • “We highly recommend that these four panelboards be replaced.”
    • “Apart from the fact that much of the equipment is old and no longer serviceable, the control of the lighting is awkward and requires familiarity with the system”
    • “…all the lighting in the nave, chancel and chapel should be fed from a single distribution….”
    • Lighting throughout the facility is made up mainly of incandescent and older inefficient fluorescent light sources.    The church may consider replacing existing lamps and ballasts with more efficient types…As well as being “Green” the church can realize a payback of initial cots within a few years.
    • The existing lighting installed in 1991 consists of “projection style” incandescent lighting plus ”theater style” instruments controlled by a complex lighting board
  • Vision Problems
    • Uneven lighting coverage and glare.
    • The existing system was designed for theater-style lighting rather than general illumination, resulting in hot spots and dark areas rather than adequate, shadowless illumination
    • Harsh light quality
    • Lighting measured during an evening service at Easter (when most lighting instruments were also burned out) was approximately two foot candles.  Normal illumination in a B.C. classroom is at least 20… 10X as much!
    • Diocesan personnel were quoted as being “horrified’ at our lighting.
  • Operational Difficulties
    • Controls in widely dispersed locations (at least seven)
    • Old technology
    • Complicated lighting and dimmer controls
    • Lighting instruments which are unsuitable to the task
  • Maintenance Problems
    • Short life of incandescent bulbs
    • Old lights which break down often
    • Expensive bulbs
    • The current method of maintenance of nave lighting requires removal of some pews and then rental of a lift truck to replace bulbs or to remove instruments for repair. The last time this was done the cost was over $6,000.
    • Difficulty in working around delicate organ pipes
  • High Current Costs
    • Tungsten bulbs with short life and high replacement cost
    • Obsolete parts and equipment
    • High electricity use with inefficient equipment
    • Cost of scissor lifts, scaffolding etc. when doing maintenance 
  • Lack of control over daylight
    • Clerestory windows with no control over the sun’s energy coming through the south side
    • Huge problem with the setting sun through the west window
    • Note that daylight control has been removed from this project due to time constraints and high cost


Design Criteria

The following design criteria were established by the committee and given to the engineer:

  • To identify, update and improve safety and lighting control to present day standards
  • To improve general lighting levels in the nave so that print materials such as those used for the church bulletin can be easily read anywhere in the nave or chancel at night
  • Strive for even, shadowless illumination
  • To update lighting fixtures which are not of suitable design or efficiency
  • To increase lighting flexibility by organizing lighting into a number of zones
  • To save money on fixture life, power utilization and maintenance costs
  • To reuse existing wiring etc. where possible in replacing what is necessary
  • To provide simple yet flexible lighting control for users

Schematic Designs

A number of schematic designs containing potential solutions and costs were prepared by the engineer and presented to the committee.  These were reviewed and revised as criteria and solutions were explored, including:

  • Safety
  • Lighting controls
  • Adequate lighting levels
  • The need for some ”theatrical” spot lighting to highlight liturgical activities
  • Baptistry and Chancel lighting (the chapel was not part of our remit)
  • Daylight control (postponed for cost and time reasons)
  • Choir task lighting (postponed pending assessment of the new system)
  • Savings and costs.  (Side aisle lighting has been removed from the remit.  An alternate method has been found, using a local contractor and is currently being installed)

Committee Recommendations

  • The existing unsafe electrical infrastructure, including all panelboards should be replaced.  Infrastructure which is assessed as being safe and efficient e.g. existing copper wiring should be retained
  • At minimum, replace the main nave house lighting with digital and LED technology.  Light levels from the existing system are not fulfilling the church’s needs and are limiting potential use of the space.  It also requires more difficult, frequent and expensive maintenance.
  • Replace existing dimming and control systems to provide maximum flexibility and cost savings
  • As funding allows, consider options which add to the functionality and visual impact of the space and/or provide additional energy savings.

Tendering Process

Once a design had been accepted and a suggested timeline was approved, AES requested contract bids from three contractors.  At this point Daniel Nadeau asked to be allowed to bid.  He resigned from the committee to avoid any conflict of interest and to take part in the bidding process.

Following a mandatory site inspection and meeting with the contractors, bids were prepared.  Tenders closed on September 28th.  They were reviewed on Monday, October 1st.  The low bid, which appears to be the best bid as well was accepted by the committee on the advice of the engineer and forwarded to the property committee chair.

The low bid was received from SASCO Contractors at a cost of $95,000 plus GST.

Final Project Schedule

The tender recommendation of the subcommittee was examined by the property committee on Friday, October 5 and a recommendation will be forwarded to Parish Council.

Lighting improvements in the side aisles will be done outside this remit by Daniel Nadeau using existing property committee funds.  This will result in a considerable saving.

Subject to acceptance of the quote and availability of contractors, it is hoped the project can be completed by mid-December.

Final Comments

During this project it has become obvious that the parish of St. John’s has been aware of the lighting issues for decades:

  • Reports and recommendations for upgrading and repair have not been actioned
  • Budgets have not included scheduled maintenance because there has been an attitude of scarcity – “We can’t afford it”
  • When purchasing has been done we have consistently been looking for the cheapest alternative with resulting poor quality in what is purchased.

The end result is before us, a lighting system which does not provide adequate lighting and is a potential fire hazard. 

Upgrading the lighting system will benefit not just the members of the congregation at regular worship services and concerts but hopefully, open up the space to groups who may not have found the space suitable in the past due to the poor quality lighting.


Submitted on behalf of the Lighting Subcommittee  October 5, 2018