The 2014 Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards winners.

Kaz Flinn, VP Corporate Social Responsibility, Scotiabank, left, with the winners of the 2014 Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards.

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competition, green building, green business, green design, home appliance, mobile app, Pembina Institute

The 2014 Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards Winners

Three brilliant ideas for improving home energy efficiency

Imagine you could save money by controlling the way your appliances use energy. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use your smartphone to track changes in energy costs to find the most affordable rates? Or if you could lower your heating bills by over 75 per cent simply with a more energy-efficient home design? Those are just some of the ideas submitted to this year’s Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards contest.

Through the awards we’re recognizing Canadian businesses, entrepreneurs and students who are dedicated to improving energy efficiency in the home. And this year, we’ve discovered some remarkable game changers.

It certainly wasn’t an easy choice, but here are the three energy-wise Canadians that topped our list. Their projects demonstrate strong concepts that are truly innovative in design and practical in application. Most importantly, they help Canadians better understand energy and the value of using it efficiently.

Scotiabank EcoLiving Business Leadership Award ($50,000)

Jennifer Corson and Keith Robertson — Halifax Nova, Scotia

Jennifer Corson & Keith Robertson of Solterre Design.Jennifer Corson & Keith Robertson of Solterre Design: winners of the 2014 Scotiabank EcoLiving Business Leadership Award.

Solterre Design expands the boundaries of green building through three steps: shape, study and share.

Its shaping efforts start with eco-friendly materials, most of which are recovered and recycled — such as salvaged oak timber frames and walls packed with recycled newsprint insulation. Designs include south-facing windows for passive solar energy and dynamic rooftops that collect rainwater for household use.

Solterre studies the energy and performance data of all its projects to better understand and improve future designs. Through the NSCC Pilikan Project, for example, energy sustainability engineering technology students are able to get hands-on experience. Then they share the knowledge. Solterre has been invited to teach their green building techniques across Canada, and around the world in England, Ghana, Israel, Mexico and beyond!  

“The focus on sharing their results is really what made Solterre stand out from the crowd,” said Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute and a 2014 Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards judge.

Scotiabank EcoLiving Innovation Award ($15,000)

Tim Johnson — Ottawa, Ontario

Tim Johnson of EnergyMobile Studios Inc.Tim Johnson of EnergyMobile Studios Inc.: winner of the 2014 Scotiabank EcoLiving Innovation Award.

EnergyMobile Studios Inc. builds easy-to-use and beautifully designed smartphone applications (apps) that help consumers better understand and take control of their home energy consumption.

Its current products include two five-star Apple featured apps: Powercents and Gridwatch. Built specifically for the Ontario Time-Of-Use market, Powercents helps homeowners track the changing price of electricity, shift their usage and save money. Gridwatch shows exactly where Ontario’s electricity comes from, when the grid is clean and when it’s not, including details about generation, demand, carbon pollution and more.

And it has two more apps in the hopper: Beckon and Willow. The former will be securely and privately connected to a home smart meter to help homeowners get a handle on their energy data. The latter matches hourly smart meter data with the grid’s hourly carbon pollution, giving users visibility into their true environmental footprint.

“They really put the time and energy into making the apps aesthetically beautiful and easy to use,” said Whittingham.

Scotiabank EcoLiving Student Leadership Award ($10,000)

Yining (Fiona) Yuan and Christopher Tegho — McGill University, Montreal, Quebec

Yining (Fiona) Yuan & Christopher Tegho of McGill University.Yining (Fiona) Yuan & Christopher Tegho of McGill University: winners of the Scotiabank EcoLiving Student Leadership Award.

Yuan and Tegho are in their last year of electrical engineering at McGill University and are keen about sustainability and energy conservation. Together they designed an “energy management and power disaggregation” system that helps homeowners and businesses better monitor, control and manage the energy use of individual appliances.

Their system records and monitors energy consumption of appliances using a power meter that is installed at the source of distribution. Advanced processing software then takes that information and breaks it down into how the energy is being consumed. It then feeds that information to a mobile app, giving businesses and homeowners better control over energy consumption.

“Trying to monitor power consumption at the appliance level isn’t new,” said Whittingham. “But coming up with an almost purely software-based solution makes this system exceedingly cheap and adaptable.”