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Building Better Buildings

By Deborah Hernandez

2ndLot

Two men walk to the front of a lecture hall at Ryerson University. Both of them are casually matching in plaid shirts, jeans, and glasses, looking at ease and ready to present their start-up company to an intimidating room of business students and professors.

The two presenters are Mathew Carlsson and Matthew Tokarik, engineers and current masters of applied science students in Building Science at Ryerson. They also happen to be the founders of 2nd Lot, a startup company housed in the iCUE since the beginning of this summer.

“‘2nd Lot’ is term we coined,” Tokarik says. “The first lot refers to a building’s physical footprint, but the ‘second lot’ is the building’s environmental and energy footprint.”

Tokarik and Carlsson are in the business of building performance simulation and consulting, which Tokarik says is a niche market that’s rapidly expanding. Their clients include architects, developers and building owners who want to have buildings that are energy efficient.

“Owners need better performing buildings that reduce operating costs,” Carlsson says. A new building also needs to meet the energy requirements of the Ontario Building Code and the Toronto Green Standard – a stricter energy efficient guideline for Toronto, implemented this year.

This is where 2nd Lot comes in. They use energy modelling software to create a 3D model of the new or renovated building, and input all the factors that would affect the building’s performance such as the façade, insulation, climate and lighting. For instance, there might be too much glass on one side of the building which would overheat the building in the summer and increase heat loss in the winter. 2nd Lot uses this information to predict energy use and advise the architect to alter the design to increase the building’s energy efficiency. 

Carlsson and Tokarik are starting up a business intensely focused on energy but they didn’t always know they’d be working in this sector.

Carlsson spent 10 years as a manufacturing and processing engineer in the automotive and power sports industries. One day, he decided to take a sustainable home design course for his own personal interest, not knowing that it would be the catalyst for quitting his job and going back to school. He applied for building science at Ryerson and got in.

“What I’m doing now, I can feel good about,” Carlsson says. “I feel there's a greater good, a greater purpose to society. We're only at the beginning of the story now when you consider resource depletion and energy concerns in Canada, and everything we can do to proactively address these issues will have greater impact on our world than any future reactive measure can.”

Tokarik worked in transportation for the City of Edmonton. But eventually he found that he craved more creativity in his work than the job could offer.

“In building science, there’s a lot more pieces to puzzle out and to fit together,” Tokarik says. “There’s more creative and critical thinking required to solve a problem.”

So while they were studying at Ryerson, both engineers entered the Norman Esch Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards. Tokarik called Carlsson up, asking him to be his business partner for the next stage of the awards and Carlsson agreed.

“I enjoy working with Matt because he is reliable and capable,” Tokarik says. “His previous experience has instilled in him a ‘get it done’ attitude. He’s extremely resourceful and if there is something that needs to get finished, he finds a way to do it.”

Along the way, they have been mentored by Dan McGillivray, the executive director at the Centre for Urban Energy (CUE). He saw that what Carlsson and Tokarik were doing aligned with CUE’s goals and the companies that iCUE wanted to support, so he invited them in.

“Neither of us have a business background, so I find it pretty fun learning about what it takes to build, run and grow a successful professional service firm,” Carlsson says.

Running a business is hard enough, but doing it while in school presents an even greater obstacle – the fine balancing act of finishing their final theses while trying to prove their abilities and becoming known to potential clients in the industry.

“My favourite part about building a company is that there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with progress,” Tokarik says. “The fact is we’re building something we can be proud of and working on something we’re passionate about.”
 

  • Related: Mathew Carlsson and Matthew Tokarik were both members of the Ryerson University team that took home the top prize in the U.S. Department of Energy Challenge Home Student Design Competition held in Denver, Colorado April 26-27

"The fact is we're building something we can be proud of and working on something we're passionate about."