Blog > Conscious Design

Conscious Design


Okanagan company ETA Energy Solutions has been working with CAT’s Interior Design department on a design competition on eco-friendly modular housing.

Over the last two terms, CAT’s Interior Design students have been working with ETA Energy Solutions, a local company based in Lake Country (and also Okotoks, AB) on a competition based on eco-friendly and sustainable issues.

The company is known for delivering energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that are both economically viable and environmentally impactful. ETA pairs innovative design with successful execution to navigate the complexities of project funding, procurement, and project management for its clients.

The competition was set up for students to design eco friendly and sustainable modular housing that could be produced in quantity. Specifically, they needed to design and provide floor plans and finish selections for interiors and exteriors for net zero modular housing. According to their website “optimizing performance while minimizing cost is foundational to the success of their projects”.

“For the competition, ETA was looking for modular housing designs that were net zero plus low carbon and energy use needs that could be produced on a mass scale,” explains Jennifer Yeo, Interior Design department head. “Sustainability and low carbon was the driving force. The designs also need to have a small footprint; for example, concrete is sustainable but is also considered High Carbon Footprint product.

The company approached us (we were recommended by designers in the community) to see if we were interested in introducing the project into the curriculum. We were. It was a great opportunity for students to learn more about budgeting and mass production.”

ETA Energy Solution’s philosophy is founded on 4 pillars, which needed to be considered by the students:

  • A project must be viable based on life cycle cost analysis.
  • The design must be robust and reliable.
  • Continuous performance monitoring is necessary to ensure design efficiency is maintained throughout the life of the project.
  • The benefits to comfort, health, and the environment are maximized.

It was a great project for students because they had to research products they were not necessarily familiar with, while checking carbon footprints and looking at energy use of all products – ie appliances and lighting,” says Jennifer.

“It was their first REAL project, so they had to deal with actual budgets, produce a high, medium and low option budget – which was great experience. They had to talk to materials reps and look at pricing as well as economies of scale. They also had to learn about manufacturing, and what is possible with large multiples.”

The project was launched in November 2020, and students had November and December to come up with their proposals.

The winning project was announced in January, 2021, and the winning team of Ashley Grunow and Simran Saunshimath won $250 cash each and the opportunity to work further with the company on the project until March of this year. There are also potential future employment opportunities available to them.

The second place team of Danielle Boenig and Montana Pittinger each won $50 gift certificates to Earls, and the third place team of Jacob Griffin and Medina Cowan each won $25 gift cards to Tim Hortons.

“From this project I learned more about eco-positive design solutions and the most effective ways to implement them. We were given the opportunity to design a space we could feel good about in more ways than one,” says Ashley Grunow.

“I found it most valuable to be able to see the different projects everyone was able to come up with given the same project! It is always amazing to see the different way people’s minds work!

Working with real clients on a real project taught us to adapt to new situations. Not every project will be simple and smooth running, but if you learn how to work with the client and the changes requested, you eventually find a rhythm that makes everything smooth once again.”

Words: Deborah Lampitt-McConnachie

Student Submissions to ‘Eco-Friendly Modular Housing’ Design Competition