Waterfront Toronto was established in 2001 by the city of Toronto, the province of Ontario and the federal government. Its mandate was not just to revitalize the waterfront area, but also to do it using a framework of sustainability. They have developed incorporated into the design such things as making the roadways more pedestrian and bike friendly, creating parks surrounding housing developments, creating mixed-use spaces for businesses, services, education and housing. Low-income housing was also included in the plan. The building code standards are stricter than the city’s and are continually improving. Finally, riverfront and lakefront rehabilitation was one of the primary mandates. If you haven’t been down to see the wave decks yet, they are unique, award winning structures that have provided connections and continuations of pathways, but have also assisted in revitalizing the lake beneath it. Toronto Conservation Authority counted an increase in fish species below the decks from six to 27 at last count.

Sherbourne Common at Night

I spoke with Lisa Prime, Director of Environment and Innovation at Waterfront Toronto, and Anna Palamarchuk, Program Director, about the development and some of the new technologies that Waterfront Toronto is incorporating.

Sherbourne Common Skating Rink

The neighbourhood: Unlike most developments where houses are built and then landscaping is brought in at the end, parks and walkways, were built first. This creates an instant neighbourhood once the buildings are finished. It’s also been advantageous in attracting local business owners who see it as an attractive place to set up shop. Sugar Beach, with its pink umbrellas and white sand, and beautiful Sherbourne Common were the first parks developed along the east end of the property. Both properties have been an instant success in terms of beauty and public access.

What makes Sherbourne Common such an interesting project is that the water feature, which is a central piece of the park,  is actually a treatment centre for storm water. The water is treated with UV light and then follows a trail where it is further cleaned before it is let out into the lake. The water feature is also lit at night and open to the public so it is a beautiful place to hang out on a warm summer night. In the winter, the shallow pond becomes a skating rink.

Sherbourne Common Waterfront

The Waterfront Toronto building standards.

As the waterfront becomes more developed, the building standards become progressively stricter. One of the pleasant surprises I had was when I asked Lisa about the size of the condo units being built she said that one of the most important facets was flexibility in design so that units could increase or decrease in size based on need and demand. Builders are required to use “Column and Slab” building versus the usual Shear Wall method. The basic difference being that columns allow units to be expanded or shrunk as needed. Some of the other standards that builders must adhere to:

  • Energy efficiency for phase 1 buildings must be 40% above energy efficiency model building cost. This translates into 35% more efficient than the new Ontario Building Code. Version 2 requires 50% more efficient.
  • All buildings must strive for LEED Gold Certification.
  • Metering for hot and cold water, electricity and gas for each unit.
  • Enwave is one of the private partners and will provide some district heating and cooling for some of the buildings.
  • Bicycle parking required for all buildings.
  • Green Roof requirement for all buildings — now based on the Toronto Green Roof requirement.
  • Waste diversion must be at least 50% from landfill, however, in many of the projects already undertaken that number has been significantly higher, ranging from 84-97% waste diversion.
Waterfront Toronto is a tri-latertal group that focuses on planned low-impact urban development for the city of Toronto
Pink Umbrellas at Sugar Beach, Toronto

For more information on Waterfront Toronto’s sustainability check out its first sustainability report: http://sr.waterfrontoronto.ca/

For more information on the developments (housing units and other buildings being built), visit the Waterfront Toronto website. 

Sugar Beach at Night
Sugar Beach at Night
Sugar Beach preconstruction
Sugar Beach preconstruction
Sugar Beach post construction
Sugar Beach post construction
BEC Green

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