Since 1973, Salex, a manufacturer’s representative, distributor, and facilitator of commercial lighting installations and their control systems, has been winning the confidence of clients with thousands of effective, sustainable, and beautiful lighting solutions.
Salex has played an integral role in numerous ground-breaking and international award-winning lighting systems, such as Niagara Falls’ Illumination Project, the dramatic lighting on the CN Tower in downtown Toronto, and the Port Arthur Waterfront in Thunder Bay. Then there are other award winners and notable achievements: the circadian lighting systems that meet WELL Building standards for healing in hospitals and well-being in workspaces and educational institutions and the custom lighting designs and controls designed to enhance and protect priceless works of art in galleries and museums.
Shining for half a century
We recently caught up with Paul Hudson, one of Salex’s principals. Salex, he says, was formed in 1973 as a fire protection company founded by John Gariepy and Don Hopkins to sell fire alarms and safety systems, and it evolved from there. The company stood out in the field, because the team took pride in servicing orders and helping their customers.
In 1996, Nick Puopolo, who had worked at Lumacell for 14 years, purchased the company and started moving in a different direction. In 2006, George Katinas and Paul Hudson, with ten years of industry experience, joined, becoming partners in 2010.
Today, Salex has a team of 55 and represent more than 100 lighting brands. The company continues to work closely with architects, engineers, and designers on a wide variety of projects, including award-winning work for Niagara Falls, the Four Seasons Hotel, and Prince Arthur’s Landing in Thunder Bay.
As a manufacturer’s representative, Salex, by contract, can offer clients a wide variety of products from over 100 select brands from Canadian, American, and European manufacturers. On a successful bid, Salex takes those products to architects, designers, engineers, and contractors so they can bring the right applications to the job, providing direction, functionality, safety, and enhancement.
The evolution of the lighting industry itself has been interesting, Hudson notes, with the most notable advance being the introduction of energy-efficient LED lighting in the first decade of this century, with LED (light-emitting diode) technology leading to the science behind digitized controls.
“Now, instead of controls being about light switches and dimmers, they’re about computer networks. For example, depending on how much sunlight is entering a room, lights can be automatically dimmed or turned off,” Hudson says. “People can be tracked through a building, turning the lights up or down as they move through the space, and outside there are sensors that can measure the snowfall rate and alert plows. There’s a lot more to lighting than light, so now we have an entire division at Salex focused on nothing but controls.”
Illuminating a natural wonder
It was this science and technology behind the controls that resulted in the stunning success of the award-winning Niagara Falls Illumination Enhancement Project. Since December 1, 2016, visitors to Niagara have been awed by the six-hour spectacular illumination show that lights up both the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American Bridal Veil Falls.
The LED lighting and control system was designed to enable lighting levels up to 14 times higher than the previous Xenon system while reducing energy output by 60 to 80 percent. To achieve this, the project used 1,400 individual luminaires, with a 2.5-deg beam arranged in RGBA (red, green, blue, alpha) clusters across 350 zones of control that increase the colour palette spotlighted onto the water to more than 16 million options.
The enhancement team, spearheaded by Puopolo, was composed of a consortium of industry leaders, including Michael Smolyansky, Applications Manager for Salex; Paul Boken, Vice President and Alan McIntosh, Senior Designer, Mulvey & Banani Lighting; Ed Gesch, President of ECCO Electric; Ron Foley of Scenework; and LED lighting products manufactured by Stanley Electric.
The project went on to win the 2017 Award of Excellence for Outdoor Lighting from the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) which was accepted by Puopolo at its Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon. This truly is a legacy project.
Healing with light
Stunning as the Niagara Falls project is, we were also intrigued by the positive impact that light can have on healing and the lighting work Salex is doing in health care facilities.
Health care lighting can assist with everything from speeding up healing times, to keeping staff alert and awake during long overnight hours, to enhancing the experience of visitors. It includes many applications—anything from a dentist’s office to a laboratory or rehabilitation centre. All have their own requirements when it comes to lighting and controls.
As Hudson explains, health care lighting, like lighting everywhere, has evolved in the last decade, with a much wider variety of specialty products. “We now have the ability to offer simulated skylights in MRI rooms and over patient beds to provide a relaxed feeling to people as they undergo treatments,” he says. “We can also provide warm amber night lights which allow patients to get up and use the facilities in the night as they need them without interrupting their sleep patterns with blue light, which disrupts sleep.”
Salex has worked on interior lighting at many hospitals across the country, including the Hennick Bridgepoint Hospital for which it received an award, Peel Memorial Hospital, and Cambridge Memorial Hospital.
Spotlight on relationships
Earlier this year, over 1,000 people turned up for Salex’s 50th anniversary party held at Ripley’s Aquarium, where Salex had worked on the lighting. “That tells me a lot about how well-liked we are,” Hudson says, reflecting on the relationships the company has with its employees, suppliers, clients, and the greater community.
Next month, on September 20, Salex will be offering Light Up Your Life, an annual event organized by Salex, at the Palais Royale in Toronto, where people can see the best new lighting products and control solutions.
“Regardless of what a business is selling, the secret sauce for success is built on relationships, developed through transparency and truthfulness. It’s what has allowed us to rise to be the number one lighting supplier in our market, because we do what we say we are going to do, we treat our clients with respect, and we add value to their business.”
Salex treats its employees with respect as well, with the owners promoting a family-like culture. Hudson told us that he has been personally involved in hiring 80 percent of the company’s 55 employees.
He says, “I take a lot of pride in our tremendous group of people who give a lot to the company through loyalty and effort. It’s very important to me and my partners that our employees are happy and fulfilled in their work. We spend time and effort making sure we provide a good atmosphere.”
Every birthday at Salex is celebrated with cake and champagne, and there is a BBQ every Friday in the summer, a ping-pong table, and company outings that allow staff to unwind. Perhaps most importantly, Salex offers employees flexible hours, so they can achieve work-life balance. This has resulted in an exceptionally low turnover rate, “a fact we are pretty proud of,” Hudson says.
In addition to maintaining excellent relationships with employees, clients, and suppliers, Salex is recognized throughout the Greater Toronto Area as a generous corporate supporter of charitable causes. For over a decade, the company has supported the SickKids Foundation and Smiles of Innocence (both affiliated with Toronto’s SickKids Hospital) as well as McMaster’s Children’s Hospital (Hamilton), the Safe Haven for Community Living Project, (Toronto), and the After Breast Cancer Foundation, a registered Canadian charity. Bringing light to where it’s needed is, after all, this team’s specialty.