2013 Sustainable Design Awards celebrate design innovation by students across Ontario
The Sustainable Design Awards – a student-led initiative co-founded by former GRAND HQP and tech entrepreneur Mike Lovas – announced the winners of its third annual competition.
Posted by GRAND NCE, October 22, 2013

Reception for the 2013 Sustainable Design Awards in Toronto. Photo: SDAs.
Reception for the 2013 Sustainable Design Awards in Toronto. Photo: SDAs.

As Industrial Design undergrads at OCAD University, Mike Lovas and his fellow classmates were struck by what they saw as a missed opportunity in their program. Though they were taught about the benefits of mass production in design, principles of sustainability and the negative impact of production went largely overlooked.

“That just seemed like an oversight from my perspective, and from a few other classmates – which raised questions,” Lovas said. “And so we decided to do something about it.”

The group of design students wanted to inspire others to view their class projects through a lens of sustainability - whether in terms of an ecological, social, cultural, economic or other perspective.

In 2010-11, through the support of the architectural firm SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building, they launched the first Sustainable Design Awards (SDAs) competition for second-year industrial design students at OCAD. The following year they opened it up to everyone at OCAD. This year, with GRAND as a major sponsor, the SDAs were opened up to all post-secondary students in Ontario.

As an annual student-led initiative, the SDAs aim to inspire and foster a wider dialogue around sustainability and design in post-secondary education. The 2013 awards encouraged cross-disciplinary submissions, with the definition of “sustainability” open to the interpretation of entrants. Participant teams were required to submit their own answer to the question: “What does sustainability mean to you?,” and, based on this definition, to come up with a unique design solution for a problem of their choice.

Fifteen finalists were chosen from student teams at 12 different colleges and universities and across multiple disciplines. An expert jury panel selects the winners based on the depth of their definition, and on the attention and thought given to their design solution.

“We take a very loose, open understanding of what design is. If you create something consciously then you are a designer,” said Lovas. “We’ve received submissions from business students, engineers, architects, fashion designers, ecologists, construction grads – it’s all over the map. Probably the biggest success this year, I think, has been the diversity of entries.”

Winners' proposals address alternative fuels, green spaces and sustainable laundry

Three winning teams were announced October 17, 2013 at a reception held at the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto. Thanks to SDAs’ sponsors, this year the competition is able to offer $10,000 in cash prizes.

Yi Jiang (OCAD University) won for his proposed foot-powered miniature washer/dryer to be used in compact urban spaces such as high-rises. The “Free Tree City” project, put forth by Tyler Allen Bradt (University of Toronto) and Alexander Dzkiewicz (McMaster University), envisions large urban tree nurseries situated within one or more hydro corridors in Toronto. Finally, Philippe Harbec (OCAD University) proposed his “Sustainable Transportation Without Compromise” to promote the use of hydrogen as the main fuel for transportation through a new combustion engine system that offers consumers the option of using hydrogen or gasoline to run their cars.

Following the announcement of the winners, jurors participated in a panel discussion on the current state of sustainable design, its history, and how the finalists and winners fit into that bigger picture. Juror Jay Godsall, Founder & CEO of aircraft manufacturer Solar Ship was the guest speaker at this year’s reception. An exhibition of the finalists’ posters will be held at the Evergreen Brick Works from September 23rd - November 15th.

2014 SDAs to support students across Canada in developing winning proposals

Lovas has noticed the calibre of the SDAs’ submissions improve over the years, with some attracting interested partners looking to develop the proposals. Partnerships are in the works for two of the three winners from the 2012 competition. An app developed by OCAD student Hannah Smith that allows community organizers to plan community gardens and improve parks has found a potential funder. As well, the Toronto regional transit authority Metrolinx has shown interest in a public transit food system developed by OCAD students Laura Headley and Ian Brako that leverages Toronto’s mass transit to transport locally grown food into the city.

The SDAs have attracted the attention of artists and designers as well as environmental organizations across North America. With the momentum building, Lovas and his team plan to take next year’s SDAs national. Future sponsors will also be more involved in the realization of winning projects, helping students develop business models and navigate the legal and IP issues to take their proposals to the next level.

“Next year, the major focus will be trying to bring new ideas into reality, and to basically take on the next steps for those ideas,” said Lovas. “It’s one thing to have an idea, put it on paper, and win some money. It’s another thing to actually take that money and further the project.”

HQP turned entrepreneur enters the app market

For Lovas, the Sustainable Design Awards is a “passion” project. A Biomedical Engineer and Industrial Designer, he is also a former HQP in GRAND. At OCAD’s Mobile Experience Lab, he developed mindfulness technologies and other projects that blend healthcare, design, and digital technologies in GRAND’s CPRM (Confronting Pain Redefining Mobility) and VSS (Visual Science for Stakeholders) projects. Lovas was also a research coordinator for OCAD’s Sustainability Office.

Now Lovas is the Chief Design Officer at PUSH Design Solutions, a startup that he co-founded thanks to seed capital and support from both the JOLT technology accelerator and OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst.

With money, office space and business mentorship, things have developed quickly for the startup. In October 2013, PUSH launched its first product: a wearable fitness tracking device for athletes. The portable and user-friendly device attaches to a weightlifter’s barbell and syncs with their smartphone to record, analyze and enhance performance and prevent injuries. The new technology has been reported on the CBC, Mashable, Forbes Magazine, Engadget and TechCrunch.

“We’ve gotten tons of interest from the pro-elite sports industry. NFL teams, major league baseball teams, soccer teams in Europe, and the NHL have all caught wind of what we’re doing and are really excited about it,” said Lovas.



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