Energy Case Study: Canadian Automotive Museum



In 2016, ArtsBuild Ontario offered a one-time grant for energy conservation projects, as part of our Energy Conservation Program. We were pleased to offer the grant to eight arts organizations, all taking on a new renovation or project that would result in lowering their monthly energy use.

One of our grant recipients was the Canadian Automotive Museum located in Oshawa, Ontario. They completed a lighting retrofit project in the lobby and gallery in their museum. Several months after completing the project, we followed up with Executive Director and Curator Alexander Gates to see how the lighting retrofit has reduced their energy use and affected the space.


In 1963, the Canadian Automotive Museum made its home in a century old former car dealership building, located at 99 Simcoe Street South. Over the years, the museum has taken on building projects to maintain and upgrade the facility to accommodate its ever-growing roster of programs and exhibitions. The museum has taken on previous energy conservation projects, including the installation of a white roof that reduces heat retention in the building in the summer months. Part of the lobby area was also renovated in 2015 where a portion of the lighting was replaced with LEDs.

Lighting improvements in the remaining lobby space and gallery became a project area for the museum as a result of visitor feedback. Patrons noted that the museum looked dark inside, as the former floodlighting highlighted the vehicles on display, but left visitor pathways in the dark. The museum deliberated on how to create a brighter space while cutting down on energy costs.

A lighting retrofit with energy efficient LED lights proved to be a successful and cost effective alternative to the traditional floodlights. “LED lights use a lot more light, less heat and have better quality lighting that is actually better for the exhibits. Incandescent and florescent lights tend to bake the objects and can fade materials,” notes Alexander. Adding higher wattage bulbs would only create more heat and use more electricity, so the museum looked to LED track lighting as a solution. The museum worked with a volunteer who is an electrician to pick out a cost effective system for the project.







Before: Hallway lighting in 2015                              After: Hallway lighting in 2017


The lighting retrofit resulted in an improved experience for visitors by brightening walking areas. Prior to the retrofit, the museum’s car collection was the lighting focus of the gallery space. While the cars had the spotlight, visitors were left slightly in the dark as they walked through the exhibition. “We want people to have light on them too, so they can do activities like a puzzle or worksheets; not sitting in the dark while the cars are being lit. So now there is definitely a warmer feeling in the space,” shares Alexander. The LED track lighting resulted in a fully lit space that improved the appearance of the kids’ space and visitor areas.

The new LED track lighting has amplified the appearance of the museum’s displays – especially the cars. Objects were previously lit in the front and sides, which created shadows and caused a lot of reflection, making it difficult to take photos. Now, the new LEDs provide even lighting and actually bring out the true colours of the vehicles on display. “The vehicles had been viewed only indoors prior to the lighting changes, and were presumed to be the colour black when in fact some are very dark blues and lavenders.”


The museum replaced its previous incandescent lights with LED lighting in the gallery and lobby spaces with a goal to reduce the number of kilowatt-hours used in the 25,000 square foot facility. The incandescent lighting fixtures used approximately 10,000 watts; this LED retrofit would see usage reduced to 1500 watts. In addition to lowering energy use, the museum’s electric bill has decreased by 35% compared to the year before as a result of this lighting retrofit and other energy saving initiatives. The new LEDs have so far saved the museum $2,000 in hydro costs.

In addition to building projects, the Canadian Automotive Museum cuts down on hydro by turning off the lights when visitors are absent. “One thing we try to very cognizant about is turning off the lights when we don’t have visitors,” mentions Alexander. “I want to let others know that it actually does make a difference to your bottom line to have all the lights on in the gallery when no one is there.” The museum operates during peak periods of electrical usage, running Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The entire team of staff and volunteers makes a point of turning the lights off when there are no visitors, such as during the first 20 minutes of the day.


The Canadian Automotive Museum is taking on additional energy saving projects this year. With plans to improve the façade of the building, the museum is planning to install metal cladding with a layer of insulation around the facility. They will replace exterior doors that will also contribute to lower energy use. The museum is in need of an HVAC system replacement, and in the middle of a fundraising campaign to support the project. All these projects combined with current energy saving initiatives will continue to reduce the museum’s overall energy use and hydro costs.

Province Boosts Support for Ontario Arts Council!

Ontario is increasing funding to the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) to support the continued success of the province’s thriving arts sector.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, were at the Berkeley Street Theatre in Toronto last week to announce that Ontario is committing $50 million in additional funding to the OAC. Funds will be distributed over the next four years, increasing provincial funding to the OAC to $80 million annually by 2020-21.

With this funding, Ontario will help increase supports for arts programs province-wide and across a wide range of disciplines and activities, including arts education, community arts, dance, literature, media arts, music, theatre, visual arts, as well as Indigenous and Francophone arts.

Read more! 

Energy Case Study: Discovery North Bay



In 2016, ArtsBuild Ontario offered a one-time grant for energy conservation projects, as part of our Energy Conservation Program. We were pleased to offer the grant to eight arts organizations, all taking on a new renovation or project that would result in lowering their monthly energy use.

One of our grant recipients was the Discovery North Bay Museum in North Bay, Ontario. Discovery North Bay completed a lighting retrofit project which saw 11 metal halide lights on the lower floor of the museum replaced with a more energy efficient alternative. We spoke with Naomi Rupke, Museum Director and Curator at Discovery North Bay about the impact this project had on their organization and energy costs.


The Discovery North Bay Museum is located in a historic Canadian Pacific train station in downtown North Bay. Built in 1903, the station was restored in 2004 and is now home to the museum’s exhibitions, education programs and rental spaces for the community.

Discovery North Bay conducted an energy audit in 2015 that confirmed what they already knew – the metal halide bulbs on the lower floor of the facility needed to be replaced. Metal halide bulbs are a high consumption, low efficiency light source. The museum needed a light source that would not only be energy and cost-efficient, but would contribute to the atmosphere of the museum.

The museum had previously completed some projects to increase efficiency, including new air conditioners and upgrades to HVAC. They also replaced lighting on the second floor where the frequently occupied administrative offices and rental spaces are located. The 2015 energy audit identified that replacing the metal halide bulbs – a small, low cost project – would have major energy saving implications for the organization. “It was a few thousand dollars to have that big of a change,” says Naomi, “that made it an obvious priority.”


Transitioning the metal halide lights was an easy project for Discovery North Bay. An electrician had provided suggestions for an LED solution that would work well with the museum’s high ceiling and ductwork – Director and Curator Naomi Rupke praises the benefits of consulting with professionals in early stages of the project. The lights needed to be dropped down from the ceiling, but having found a compatible solution, the replacement bulbs were installed in one morning, meaning regular operations were scarcely affected.

“It was probably the simplest project I’ve ever overseen,” says Naomi, “there was only one step to the project so it really did go according to plan.”


During their 2015 energy audit, Discovery North Bay projected replacing the first floor lights would see an annual energy cost savings of $1,000/year. After replacing the 11 metal halide bulbs with an LED alternative, Discovery North Bay saved roughly 100-200 kWh overall per month when compared with the previous year.

While the dollar savings weren’t quite where they had been projected, Naomi cites variables with a large facility, such as weather and hydro costs as responsible for the difference. “The cost for hydro was a little higher this year,” says Naomi, “it ended up being the same amount of money but we would have been paying more without the new lights for sure.”


The biggest impact the project had, says Naomi, was in the overall environment of the museum. The previous bulbs, despite consuming so much energy, gave off very little light and did not contribute to the atmosphere of the museum. “Even with the large amount of energy being consumed, it was actually pretty dark in the museum… the displays weren’t properly lit,” says Naomi. New lighting has led to positive comments from visitors, staff and volunteers that the environment is better and brighter, and exhibits can be seen more clearly.

The lighting project worked in conjunction with a larger redesign of the lower floor of the museum. “Without proper lighting,” says Naomi, “it would have hindered what we were trying to do. Putting in new exhibits without having proper lighting would have been a problem.” On top of the improved lighting, the decrease in consumption has been significant for Discovery North Bay. For a non-profit organization operating in a historic railway station, “…everything you can do to limit your consumption is huge for keeping things manageable,” says Naomi. “We’re always looking for ways to cut down on costs without cutting corners. [These improvements] will contribute to our sustainability as an organization.”


Focused on sustainability, Discovery North Bay recently received an Ontario Trillium grant to replace the windows in the museum. The windows were last replaced in 1979 and the building has over 100 windows. These new properly sealed windows will reduce heating and cooling significantly for the museum, contributing to further energy savings.

Energy Case Study: The Royal Conservatory of Music



In 2016, ArtsBuild Ontario offered a one-time grant for energy conservation projects, as part of our Energy Conservation Program. We were pleased to offer the grant to eight arts organizations, all taking on a new renovation or project that would result in lowering their monthly energy use.

One of our grant recipients was the Royal Conservatory of Music located in Toronto, Ontario. They completed a lighting retrofit project in their building, the Telus Centre for Performance and Learning. Several months after completing the project, we followed up with Martin Torns, Building Systems Manager, to see how the lighting retrofit has reduced their energy use and costs so far.


The Royal Conservatory of Music has been a long-standing anchor arts organization in Toronto and the country at large. The organization took on a major capital project in 2008, expanding its historic McMaster Hall and constructing what is now the Telus Centre for Performance and Learning. This project included upgrades to their lighting and HVAC system in their heritage building as well as construction of a new concert hall, studio and teaching facilities.

The Conservatory has since taken on small energy projects in their heritage space, and next on the list was replacing florescent lights with LEDs in areas where lights are required to stay on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These areas included stairwells, the loading dock and back stage, all of which must remain lit to meet safety and code requirements for the building. “Anywhere the lights were on 24 hours a day were the best places to do this and gave us the most bang for our buck,” notes Martin. “It’s an easy project that really will go unnoticed by most people, which is what you want.”


There were some expected and unexpected challenges when taking on this lighting retrofit. Since the Conservatory was not completing an entire lighting retrofit of their facility at this time, the first consideration was matching the colour of new LED lights with older florescent lights. LEDs often have a cooler and industrial tone, which can contrast the warm light of older bulbs. They settled on integrated LED 18 watt tubes, which were only one notch cooler than their older lights.

The LED 18 watt tubes were also 98% compatible with all ballasts on the market. As they worked on replacing the lights throughout their building, they soon discovered the new tubes did not fit the stairwell fixtures. This added a cost of $400 to replace the ballasts in the stairwells so they could complete their lighting retrofit.

On the bright side, the new 18 watt LEDs provided more light than anticipated. While the Conservatory planned to replace two tubes per fixture, they realized that using only one LED tube provided enough light to remain within code. “We were able to go down to one tube instead of using two tubes which was a huge saving,” shares Martin. The Conservatory went from using 64 watts to 18 watts per fixture, and in turn expanded the retrofit to more areas of the building with the leftover tubes.


The Conservatory projected that retrofitting these lights would see an energy reduction of 25,509 kWh and an annual hydro cost savings of $3,800 per year. After replacing 358 florescent lights with 190 LED lights in 24-hour locations, the Conservatory has saved roughly $5,700 on a $10,000 project. From January 2016 to January 2017, they effectively reduced their energy consumption by 73,000 kWh.

Despite these energy savings, their energy costs have gone up by 7%. The Conservatory currently pays a wholesale hydro rate, which fluctuates throughout the year. Even with energy cost reductions, it is hard to say what impact this will have on a large facility like the Royal Conservatory of Music.


One of the first Save on Energy submissions the Conservatory made was six year ago, after they had completed the bulk of construction on their heritage building. Martin notes: “I was able to research what was in there before as far as lighting and HVAC, and I was able to get $50,000 back on that retrofit.” The Conservatory continues to implement smaller energy projects, and are currently planning to retrofit their HVAC system with support from Save on Energy. The estimated cost of the project is $80,000, which means they would be looking at a potential rebate of $40,000 from Save On Energy incentive programs. “Arts grants and Save on Energy have been great programs that have supported these projects,” shares Martin.

The Royal Conservatory of Music plans to continue looking at replacing light fixtures with LEDs and take advantage of hydro incentives. Plans for future energy projects include retrofitting their house lighting, that is on 24-hours as well, and theatre lighting.

ArtsBuild Responds to the 2017 Ontario Budget


To no surprise cultural infrastructure was absent from the 2017 Ontario budget presented on Thursday April 27th. It is disappointing that the provincial government is not putting forward the investment needed to support projects province wide. Without significant matching funding from the provincial government, organizations might not be able to access the new investment on the federal level through Canada Cultural Spaces Fund. The current capital investment available from Ontario Trillium Foundation, once per year, is not sufficient to support the infrastructure needs province-wide.

There are other elements of the budget that might have implications on our cultural spaces, we will understand more as the fiscal year rolls on.

There was mention of Community Hubs initiative that the Province has been executing since 2015 which will see surplus schools being made accessible to the public benefit sector. This initiative could result in seeing arts and culture organizations finding spaces in these new “hubs.” ABO is following this project so that we can remain informed about the implications it might have for our organizations seeking space.

The budget referenced  their proposed Fair Hydro Plan[1] that would see a reduction in charges of about 25%. This savings could apply to up to 500,000 small businesses province wide. We are interested to learn when this plan is executed if these savings are in fact passed on to our small to mid-sized organizations. They go further to describe measures that might support businesses[2], but it will likely support large industries – much larger energy consumers than our mid-size to large organizations.

Accessibility Directorate got a budget increase from 17 to 20 million[3], but there is no mention of any programs that might support accessibility infrastructure beyond Ontario Trillium Foundation. Federal funds have been increased for the Enabling Accessibility Fund and we hope that this small increase to the Accessibility Directorate budget might include funds to be accessed for capital infrastructure to match the federal funds that might soon be available.


We are excited to hear the new investment made to the Ontario Arts Council of 20 million over four years. We hope that this will go a long way in supporting our organizations. This was not included in the formal budget, but instead announced separately by the Honourable Eleanor McMahon.

The budget for the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport (MTCS) has been reduced from $1.45 billion to $1.39 billion[4]. This is disappointing news given MTCS just released their Culture Strategy in July 2016. Although we do not have the specific details around where these cuts will be realized, a reduction in budget does not demonstrate a significant commitment in executing this strategy. We hope to understand how this will implicate the culture portfolio within Tourism, Culture and Sport.

We did not see a written mention of Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) budget, but we are hopeful that the 25 million reallocated to the Capital 150 fund will be reinvested back to OTF. Because this was not confirmed or mentioned in the 2017 Budget, we reached out to MTCS for confirmation. According to MTCS this decision has not yet been finalized, so we cannot report for certain that the budget allocation has been recommitted but we are hopeful as other reports through ONN and Arts Advocate have reported that this is confirmed through their Ministry of Finance connections.

As provincial funding remains absent, ArtsBuild will continue to advocate for our organizations by demonstrating the need for a significant matching fund at the provincial level.

To end on a positive note based on the open data available through the Ontario Trillium Foundation for capital projects through Ontario 150, under the program area: Inspired People, it looks like 50 projects were supported ranging from $5,600 to $500,000, for a total investment of $3,842,500. The projects looked to be evenly distributed throughout the catchment areas.

Finally, we would like to congratulate Place Des Arts on receiving 3.5 million from the provincial government towards the building of a new arts centre in Sudbury. This was a special request, not from a specific granting program. We have been in touch with the ROCS since 2011 on this project and we are so pleased that they have confirmed the investment of municipal and provincial funds towards the construction of their new space – congratulations!

You can view and download the 2017 Budget here.

[1] 2017 Ontario Budget, A Stronger, Healthier Ontario. The Honourable Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance. Budget Papers. Page 20

[2] Ibid. Page 23

[3] Ibid. Page 240

[4] Ibid. Page 241