Buildings and Housing

VISION
Sustainable buildings that can be constructed and adapted far more quickly, and a new set of financial and design tools that help improve affordability and expand options for all households.
Artist's illustration of a happy sun with a smile.
Benefits of Implementing the Vision
  • 01
    Accelerate construction timelines by as much as 35%
  • 02
    Unlock a new Ontario-based sustainable mass timber industry, creating roughly 2,500 jobs over 20 years of development at the scale of the IDEA District
  • 03
    Generate over $1.4 billion for below-market housing through 2048
  • 04
    Enable buildings to support evolving live-work communities through fast, affordable renovations

The Innovation Plan

To help Toronto’s waterfront achieve its goals for a mixed-income community that builds on the city’s diversity, and to demonstrate a path forward for affordability and economic opportunity in high-demand cities, Sidewalk Labs proposes a comprehensive three-part strategy for construction, building, and housing innovation.

 

First, Sidewalk Labs proposes construction innovations that would accelerate project timelines while reducing costs and uncertainties, helping developers look beyond condo towers. This plan centres on a new factory-based construction approach, enabled by an emerging building material called “mass timber,” which is easier to manufacture and better for the environment than concrete or steel, yet just as strong and fire-resistant. Digital building information modelling tools could support this factory approach by coordinating projects across the supply chain.

 

Second, Sidewalk Labs proposes building design innovations that could accommodate the full range of live-work needs and respond nimbly as those needs change. These include adaptable “Loft” spaces — supported by flexible interior panels and a real-time code-monitoring system — designed to cut renovation times and help communities retain a lively mix of businesses and residents. For homes in particular, efficient units and co-living spaces could improve affordability while expanding options for all types of households.

 

Finally, Sidewalk Labs’ proposed housing innovations aim to realize an ambitious affordability program wherein 40 percent of units are below market rate, with half of the program’s total units consisting of purpose-built rentals to improve long-term affordability. To achieve this program, Sidewalk Labs proposes to implement new tools that could help the private sector support below-market rental housing while still earning returns, including through leveraging the value created by factory-based construction.

Key Goals

Faster construction.
The accelerated timelines of factory-based construction can help developers look beyond condo towers.
More flexible buildings.
New space designs and digital tools enable buildings to quickly — and affordably — respond to community needs.
More affordable housing.
New financial tools could help the private sector support ambitious public-sector goals for affordable rental housing.
Key Innovations
Sidewalk Labs proposes an array of digital, physical, and policy innovations for the eastern waterfront, with the ultimate goal of improving people’s lives. The following examples are just some of the buildings and housing innovations proposed in the Master Innovation and Development Plan.
Loft.
An adaptable approach to buildings — durable exteriors and nimble, modular interiors that can be renovated quickly — would allow buildings to take on many different types of residential and non-residential uses throughout their lifecycles, enabling a diverse live-work community. Sidewalk Labs plans to incorporate Loft spaces from the 3rd to the 12th storeys of buildings and an adaptable “stoa” structure on the lower two floors.
Mass timber.
This emerging building material is just as strong and fire-resistant as steel or concrete yet far more sustainable and easier to manufacture.
Library of building parts.
Customizable, pre-approved, factory-made building parts would create more certainty around the construction and permitting process, resulting in unique designs built on faster, more predictable timelines. The parts would also be designed to maximize shipping efficiency and dramatically reduce waste.
Outcome-based building code.
Using non-personal, environmental sensors that test for things like noise or air pollution, this system could encourage a mix of residential and non-residential uses — from restaurants, to retail, to residential — while enabling cities to know in real time that tenants are meeting codes, protecting public safety.