Sign Source Solution had a couple of really proud moments near the intersection of Hwy 404 and Hwy 407 in August 2016 when a commercial crane hoisted up two huge business signs that we designed and created to the top of the eight story building at 123 Commerce Valley Drive in Markham. We love it when a plan comes together! On that stormy Friday afternoon we knew for sure we’d just put our client on the map, and made a monument to fix their location more firmly in the minds of millions of passing motorists forevermore.

A big task like this takes an experienced and well staffed sign company a very long time to accomplish; this project was first initiated back in August 2015, one year ago this month, when we were first approached by the tenant to bid on the job. After we got the gig we set about educating the client executive body on just what’s involved in making and installing big signs on buildings. We needed them to understand that this is not a simple task, and indeed this complicated logistical recipe involves a lot of planning just to get everything lined up perfectly with all the different people involved. Readers can just picture the dozen or more well paid professionals who contributed something to this project. Start by imagining the sign’s designers, a structural engineer, two sign permit bureaucrats, various manufacturing agents, installation team leaders, grid assemblers inc a highly specialized welder, a window mullions construction specialist, and a roof parapet wall composite structural engineer.

We Fashioned Two Identical Forward Illuminated Channel Letters Signs

Acklands Grainger assembled before install

The signs, there are two – one facing east and another facing south are what we refer to as a forward illuminated channel letters sign, and in this case because they’re illuminated also means they’re powered and that’s another maintenance factor. The sign has white faces over a white return mounted on a grid and so even small LED lights create a massive white glow.

The Grid: Our design solutions team had to create an aluminum grid below the lettering because all sides of this building are made entirely of glass. The grid was the solution to our biggest challenge, and once engineered we measured and manufactured a sturdy aluminum grid, and then mounted the channel letters onto this frame. Then we raised and secured this metal grid in between the window mullions being especially careful not to shatter the glass, or block the view from inside, or leave the sign mounts in such a way as to interfere too seriously with the necessary window washing apparatus.

The signs each weigh approximately 1100 lbs despite being constructed from a lightweight synthetic material that will never rust or oxidize, especially where it attaches to the aluminum frame.  High quality LED lights, designed to illuminate the sign for many years to come and yet have a very low electricity consumption and minimal maintenance requirements, were affixed inside the white letters. We extended the transformers wires up to the roof top and there installed the actual LED transformers in a weatherproof box for ease of maintenance (instead of having the transformers inside or behind the sign below).

The installation procedure was designed by our in-house engineer, who certainly earned his pay navigating bureaucracy in this endeavour to be sure. He had to run the concept by M.T.O., the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and get their approval as all commercial signs over a certain size facing any of the 400 series highways always require a permit. This sign is facing 404 to the east and 407 to the south and is highly visible. After that we applied for a sign permit with the City of Markham, and our engineer had to go meet with the City of Markham’s civil engineer to explain our sensitive installation process in order for us to secure their permit. And it didn’t end there. After that we still had to float the concept past the Base Building Engineer for his necessary stamp of approval.

Actual installation of the heavy signs presented yet more challenges. First in a busy construction season in the GTA, we had to schedule a large enough crane to reach to the top of the eight story building – a pricey proposition in any market, and demand for construction cranes in the GTA is red hot at present. ‎Also the building administrators needed 48 hrs to block off the area where the crane needed to go, in two different places, so we could do both signs in one day. We had to watch the weather, wait for delays at the crane company, and time our installation so as not to interfere with an expensive roof repair also happening on site.

Acklands Grainger - Aug 2016
Due to the exigencies of the property’s physical layout, and owing to the fact that the heavy hoisting equipment was not allowed to set up on top the underground parking garage, the crane’s arm could not easily get close to the building, or raise the load at its optimal angle. And as anyone knows, if you’ve ever tried to extend your arm for a long time, holding something heavy, even the slightest breeze can affect a resonating bounce. In this situation, the worst case scenario would be to see the sign bounce into the very breakable glass siding of an eight story commercial building… With that in mind we all held our breath as each heavy sign was hoisted aloft.

And thank goodness everything went as planned. August 05th 2016 was a rather ominous weather day with dark storm clouds on the horizon and steadily increasing wind gusts. But true to form, our handpicked team of installers quickly and safely adhered the sign to the building with great speed and precision. On this day their specialized skills were only rivaled by Indy 500 racing pit crews, or perhaps more accurately, NASA astronauts building a space station.

At 9pm on Monday August 8th 2016 in a brief ceremony held at dusk in the empty parking lot, the two signs were set alight, to punch a hole right through the night and take their place in the constellation of building signs that paint the Markham skyline in the summer of 2016.

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