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Minto’s Oakvillage looks to hackathon for solutions

A three-day hackathon which asked participants to devise innovative energy, construction and circ...

IMAGE: Minto Communities was part of a three-day hackathon, which asked participants to devise innovative energy, construction and circular economy solutions for its Oakvillage development in Oakville, west of Toronto. (Courtesy Minto)

Minto Communities was part of a three-day hackathon, which asked participants to devise innovative energy, construction and circular economy solutions for its Oakvillage development in Oakville, west of Toronto. (Courtesy Minto)

A three-day hackathon which asked participants to devise innovative energy, construction and circular economy solutions for Minto CommunitiesOakvillage development in Oakville, Ont. concluded with digital presentations and the selection of a winner on Nov. 26.

The Nordic-Canadian Circular Economy Hackathon was jointly hosted by numerous organizations, including The Nordic Trade Promotion Organizations in Canada, Minto, the Town of Oakville, the Royal Danish Consulate General in Toronto, the Vancouver Economic Commission, Nordic Innovation and World Circular Economy Forum. The hackathon was part of the World Circular Economy Forum 2020 + 2021 Canada – Joint Nordic Activity project under the Nordic Sustainable Business Transformation program.

The Nordic region is comprised of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and a few smaller islands belonging to Finland and Norway.

“Many cities across the Nordic countries are facing many of the same challenges that Oakville faces,” said Jeppe Fredslund, consul general and head of the trade commission for the Danish Trade Council in North America, to open the hackathon. “We believe we have some very unique insights and technologies that could benefit Oakville.”

Hackathon goals and participants

With Minto’s first three phases of Oakvillage at different stages of completion, hackathon participants were asked to generate ideas for fourth phase development – and possible retrofits for the earlier phases – while establishing a clear connectivity throughout the development.

Nineteen organizations from Canada and Nordic European countries involved with climate resilience and sustainable energy solutions, building materials and construction solutions paid $500 each to take part in the hackathon.

The participants formed four teams that had three days to come up with concepts. They then gave seven-minute presentations on their work, and answered questions from judges for another five minutes, before a winning team was chosen.

The hackathon had four judges: Deniz Ergun, climate change mitigation policy advisor for the Town of Oakville; Gabe Charles, senior manager of current planning and urban design for the Town of Oakville; George Benson, sector manager for built environment for the Vancouver Economic Commission; and Carl Pawlowski, sustainability project coordinator for Minto.

Among the considerations for the presentations were: climate change; resiliency and waste management, including construction and demolition waste; building materials; energy supply, use and distribution; building operation, development and liveability; mixed-use integration; and food production.

The winning team

After the four teams made their pitches, the judges decided that a team composed of representatives from Melt Collective, Lumon, Ross DK, Scaledenmark and Tecwill had the right stuff.

Melt Collective is a student-led recycling workshop, laboratory and think-tank based at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Lumon is a Finnish-founded company that branched out into Canada in 2011. It designs, manufactures and installs functional, retractable glass walls or panels for balconies and sun rooms.

Ross DK is a Danish company that specializes in the development of geothermal resources and the production of geothermal energy for district heating.

Scaledenmark is a Danish consulting company that specializes in best practices for sustainable transformations and delivering economic, environmental and social impacts.

Tecwill is a Finnish company that specializes in manufacturing plant modules for the production of environmentally friendly, high-quality concrete.

The winning proposal

Melt Collective’s Liam Russell was the spokesperson for his team and proposed a project constructed from transformed materials that uses energy sourced passively and sustainably from geothermal, solar and biogas.

Waste management would exceed current standards and include a green box program, local composting and anerobic digestion. Internal heating would be generated from waste through food scraps, community anerobic digestion and biogas. Renewable heating, cooling and energy storage would be created through integrated geothermal, solar and biogas sources, with energy storage to meet seasonal demands.

Enclosed balconies with thick-glazed glass would offer energy efficiency. Community gardens would create shared spaces and promote mental health. The green space could be integrated into everyday life through locally grown food that can provide food sovereignty and security.

“Connecting all of these loops will maximize the synergistic effects more than any individual efficiency,” said Russell, who added that the system is scalable, easily retrofitted, carbon-neutral and creates a resilient energy supply.

Benson, who hosted the hackathon as well as being a judge, said the winning team was able to “successfully integrate quite a wide variety of technologies and perspectives into their work. They were able to really link together the technical pieces of the products and solutions that they were presenting, and able to link that technical proficiency and performance with liveability for the residents of these future homes. That’s really a core part of what we wanted to see.”

“You did a ton of work in a really short amount of time, and it was really impressive to see,” said fellow judge Charles. “It’s been a great experience and we’ve seen a lot of fantastic ideas.”

The Oakvillage development

Branthaven Homes and Emshih Developments are developing their own projects along with Minto for Oakvillage, a 100-acre site located at Dundas Street East and Trafalgar Road.

At Minto’s stacked townhome and condominium portion of Oakvillage, phase one is built and closed, while roads have been built and construction has just begun for phase two. At phase three, excavation recently began for the underground parking structure, and the first site plan submission has been made for phase four.

Branthaven’s latest Oakvillage project is Upper West Side Condos 2, which is scheduled for completion in August 2023.

Emshih is responsible for a 130-unit full-service retirement residence with dedicated assisted living units and a neighbouring 160-unit seniors’ lifestyle rental apartment. There’s also 7,500 square feet of retail and service commercial space to serve the retirement residents.

Oakvillage is surrounded by green space and amenities including schools, parks and shopping, with easy connections to Highways 407, 403 and the Queen Elizabeth Way, as well as a GO Transit station. A 1.5-kilometre scenic trail weaves through the community and is surrounded by Oakville’s 200-kilometre trail system. A retail complex is planned to be built nearby.

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