Winning projects on display at the Sustainable Design Awards.

What Can Sustainability Be?

A recap of the 2014 Sustainable Design Awards.

We think sustainability is evolving – what do you think? It’s time for the next generation of critical thinkers to design, develop, and create positive change. We want YOU to show us what sustainability can be.

We think sustainability is evolving – what do you think? It’s time for the next generation of critical thinkers to design, develop, and create positive change. We want YOU to show us what sustainability can be.

This was our call for submissions for the 2014 Sustainable Design Awards, an annual competition that asks students to define sustainability and provide a solution to a real-world issue. The 2014 awards culminated on September 25th, when approximately 150 people gathered for the annual reception at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto. The room was full of students, recent graduates and professionals from various environmental and design-related fields.

Now in its fourth year, the awards have grown from an OCAD University Industrial Design competition to be Ontario-wide and open to post-secondary students and recent graduates from any discipline. Individuals and teams from across the disciplinary spectrum submitted a variety of innovative projects last spring, ranging from hand-held technologies to urban-scaled interventions; from pragmatic and realizable to disruptive and forward-looking. There was a great diversity of representation – including over 200 registrants from more than 10 colleges and universities around the province – with a strong showing from the architecture and urban design communities as well as the product and industrial design fields.

Each year, the Sustainable Design Awards selects a jury comprised of industry professionals to anonymously assess submissions. This year the jury included local heavy hitters from organizations such as Indiegogo and Evergreen CityWorks, as well as international all-stars from IDEO and Autodesk. The finalists chosen, on display at Evergreen Brick Works through October, were then given a second round of in-person deliberation by the full jury to select winners.

The jury selected one Honourable Mention and three Grand Prize Winners to split the $10,000 in prize money. The three winners, true to Sustainable Design Awards form, represented very different scales and approaches. “We needed a mechanism to rationalize our placing an effervescing shovel, a laneway housing plan, and a respiratory building next to each other as equals in the Sustainable Design Awards,” explained Andrew Lovett-Baron, designer with IDEO and jury member. “These projects fell along a contiguous spectrum of theory (Urban Respiratory System), policy (Project Tokyo/Toronto), and implementation (Firn shovel) in how different visions for a sustainable present and future might manifest. We wanted to make sure that we selected the best of each stage of that vision to receive the award: so that we celebrate each phase of the design process, so that we represent not just the dream but also the reality, and so that these pioneers for a sustainable Canada aren’t walking towards that dream alone.”

Below is a bit about each winner and their reactions – see the details of their submissions on our website.

Grand Prize Winners

Architecture as an Urban Respiratory System
Kevin Pu, Ryerson University
A theoretical building design that purifies our air and takes the important leap from ‘doing less bad’ to ‘doing more good.’

Kevin Pu's Urban Respiratory System
From Kevin Pu’s Urban Respiratory System submission to the Sustainable Design Awards.

 Winning the SDAs is a huge confidence booster for me. It tells me that it is a tangible idea and that I am on the right track for my (M.Arch) thesis as I explore the idea of architecture as an urban respiratory system. Also, it means that I now have a connection to a network of like-minded advocates for sustainability to tap into for their knowledge and insight to help move my project forward. It means a lot to have support and recognition from a community of professionals who work and fight for similar goals of mine in regards to design.

Andrew Choptiany's Project Tokyo/Toronto
From Andrew Choptiany’s winning submission.

Project Tokyo/Toronto
Andrew Choptiany, University of Toronto
An innovative solution to improving housing density in downtown Toronto.

The Sustainable Design Awards mean a continuation and implementation of my project. Instead of simply fizzling out as a theoretic diversion, it means that I can explore the possibilities of changing the face of housing in Toronto. I will be using the money to both promote and expand the project from the academic to the practical. I will be looking at the realities of zoning and construction in order to start building prototypes as soon as possible to improve the fabric of Toronto and provide housing for the contemporary city.

Dominik Gmeiner and Patrick Kroetsch's Firn
Dominik Gmeiner & Patrick Kroetsch’s
SDA-winning shovel.

Dominik Gmeiner & Patrick Kroetsch, OCAD University
A quintessential piece of Canadian equipment – the winter shovel – responsibly made and designed for disassembly and re-purposing.

Winning the ‎SDAs means a lot to us and our fledgling business! Although it’s always lovely to be recognized for your work, the SDAs are a special honour because of their focus on what we believe to be the most important element of design today.


Honorable Mention

Laneway Wetland
Waiyee Chou, University of Toronto
Creating micro wetlands in the unused spaces of Toronto’s downtown neighbourhoods.

Waiyee Chou's Laneway Wetland
Waiyee Chou’s Laneway Wetland.

Coming out of the SDAs with a concept that earned a prize means I have reassurance that I am on the right track when it comes to my ideology and approach to sustainability. Knowing there’s support for the idea makes moving forward a whole lot easier. I’m hoping the recognition will help me find support for developing some of my other ideas, as well as help gain momentum to have an actual project realized within Toronto.

Winners of the 2014 competition also receive a mentorship package, where each is paired with an industry professional to help launch their project to the next level. We hope that this is the start of a robust new feature of the Sustainable Design Awards, where the students are kick-started into actualizing their concept. Watch out for these projects!

The annual competition will launch again in early 2015 – check our website, Facebook, or Twitter for more information soon! And if you’re a student or recent graduate, we invite you to join the growing Sustainable Design Awards community and show us what sustainability can be.

A warm introduction is made by Mike Lovas to begin the Sustainable Design Awards.

Dawn Danby talks about sustainable design spaces.

The jurors of the Sustainable Design Awards discuss project finalists.

Representatives of sustainable design firms give advice to future designers.

Winners Dominik Gmeiner (second left) and Patrick Kroetsch (second right) discuss their project, “Firn.”

Finalist designs are displayed for spectators to observe.


Mike Lovas is the Founder and Chair of the Sustainable Design Awards.

Ashley Mauerhofer is the Assistant Director of the 2014 Sustainable Design Awards.

Taylor Stone is the Director of the 2014 Sustainable Design Awards.