Mitigating Factors

Describe Adam Greetham as you wish: tinkerer, scientist, adaptor, businessman. “A bit of all of them,” he admits. “I can’t really deny any one of those.”

Another handle that easily fits the president of Groundtrax Environmental Services is innovator. Over 23 years doing environmental assessment and remediation, Greetham has developed “some of the best remediation technologies available on the market.”

If all goes to plan, his latest project may soon find its way into thousands of Canadian homes, businesses and institutions — saving energy costs and possibly even lives.

Greetham is in the final stages of developing a simple device he compares to a home thermostat. But instead of regulating temperature, it would control the operation of a building’s radon mitigation system.

Radon is a colourless, tasteless, odourless gas produced in the soil by the breakdown of uranium. It is prevalent in the Whitehorse area and occurs throughout the world, particularly where hard rock is exposed. “It’s hit and miss,” Greetham explains. “Your neighbour may have high radon, but you may not.”

According to Health Canada, prolonged exposure to radon also happens to be the second-leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. “Yukon Housing has done a wonderful job promoting and providing radon testing,” Greetham says.

The Crown corporation has also certified about a dozen Yukon companies to assume that role, including Groundtrax.

It was a natural fit for someone who was already doing environmental assessments, and sometimes remediation, associated with property transactions. “It’s another tool that needs to be provided to the client. I’m into having one more tool in the bag.”

But Greetham believes the standard mitigation technique, using a small extractor fan to counteract the “chimney” effect that pulls soil gases through cracks or holes into the lower-pressure environment inside a building should be more energy-efficient.

The problem, he explains, is that the negative pressure the fan creates can suck as much as half of the building’s internal air supply through the system.

Less than three months ago, the self-described “problem-solver at heart” conceived a small device to turn that extractor fan into a “smart, self-controlled” mitigation system that could reduce that costly outfl ow of air to almost zero. “If the vacuum fan is the mitigation hardware, this will be the brain for that system,” he says.

After getting positive response from Yukon Innovation and consulting with radon industry professionals and agencies such as Health Canada, his four-person team is “pushing full-tilt” on the idea. Within a year — two at the latest — Greetham hopes to have two separate products available that could save consumers as much as $2,000 a year in energy costs.

One would be in the under-$200 price range, aimed for a broader market. “It does very much have the potential to be mandated for use with radon mitigation systems, due to the energy savings it can provide,” he says.

The other model would be geared to high-end installations, such as remote industrial sites.

On June 22, Greetham will learn whether or not he will receive the first Yukon Innovation Prize of $60,000, jointly sponsored by Cold Climate Innovation and the territorial Economic Development department. He’s one of four finalists who each received $10,000 at the semi-final round. The others are Chris Bartsch, for a tool to score or cut decorative concrete flooring; Kirk Potter, for an energy-efficient header system for residential and commercial doors and windows; and Terry Rufiage-Holway for a concept to increase energy efficiency of exterior doors.

Greetham is determined to carry through on his project, with or without the $60,000 prize purse. “You have to just continuously think through the process and move ahead. If there’s a roadblock, look at the roadblock and say, ‘That’s not a problem. This is the solution.’”

The businessman side of the innovator knows just how he wants to proceed. “The number one objective is to bring it to market, and preferably have the products made here in the Yukon, if possible,” he says from his home overlooking Kettley’s Canyon, near Marsh Lake. “You don’t need to be in Montreal, or California. You can have the clear skies, clean air and nonchaos around you to brainstorm, and still utilize amazing capabilities right here,” he adds.

“It’s a global market out there, and we have the resources here to be in the world market.”

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