A new standard of sustainability that creates a blueprint for truly climate-positive communities.

Artist's illustration of a happy sun with a smile.

Benefits of Implementing the Vision

The Innovation Plan

Building on concepts from Waterfront Toronto’s existing precinct plans, Sidewalk Labs proposes a six-part pathway to achieve climate-positive development that can only be effective and financially feasible when applied across a broad area and supported by strong cooperation between the public and private sectors.


First, Sidewalk Labs proposes to reduce overall energy demands through energy-efficient building designs. These designs would maintain interior comfort by incorporating building features inspired by the global “Passive House” movement, such as airtight wall systems. These proposed designs would achieve or exceed the highest levels of the Toronto Green Standard (the city’s energy code) for GHG intensity.


Second, Sidewalk Labs plans to eliminate energy waste through digital management tools. A proposed suite of energy “Schedulers” would actively manage energy systems for residents, businesses, and building operators, ensuring that buildings operate in the most efficient way possible.


Third, Sidewalk Labs plans to use a district energy system called a “thermal grid,” which could provide heating, cooling, and domestic hot water without relying on fossil fuels. This grid harnesses clean energy from a variety of sources — including geothermal (underground) energy, building waste (or excess) heat, and wastewater (sewage) heat — and operates using electric heat pumps, eliminating the need for boilers powered by natural gas.


Fourth, Sidewalk Labs proposes to design an advanced power grid that uses solar energy, battery storage, and real-time energy pricing to reduce reliance on the main power grid during periods of peak demand, when the grid requires fossil fuels to meet needs. This grid could draw on solar or battery energy at peak moments or, combined with the Schedulers mentioned above, defer energy consumption until off-peak hours, when fossil fuel-fired power plants are not in use.


Fifth, to reduce GHG emissions from garbage trucks and the impact of landfill waste, Sidewalk Labs proposes a smart disposal chain that could dramatically improve recycling rates and organic waste processing. This chain would include real-time feedback to improve waste sorting, “pay-as-you-throw” chutes that encourage households and businesses to reduce waste, underground vacuum tubes that help reduce contamination and centralize trash hauling, and connections to anaerobic digestion facilities.


Finally, to protect the water quality along the waterfront while also incorporating more nature into the public realm, Sidewalk Labs proposes a combination of green infrastructure and digital stormwater management systems that could help capture, reuse, and, if necessary, treat stormwater that might otherwise contaminate the Don River basin.

Key Goals

Design low-energy buildings.

We can design energy-efficiency into the buildings themselves.

Optimize building systems.

Digital tools can actively manage buildings’ energy use — and eliminate energy waste.

Provide clean energy.

A “thermal grid” could harness clean energy sources to provide heating, cooling, and hot water — without relying on fossil fuels.

Make electrification affordable.

An advanced power grid can reduce reliance on the main power grid when energy’s at peak demand — and most expensive.

Reduce waste.

A smart disposal chain can help households and businesses recycle better.

Manage stormwater actively.

Green infrastructure and digital tools can let us protect the water quality along the waterfront.

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 innovations proposed in the Master Innovation and Development Plan.

Passive House.

Low-energy buildings — inspired by the Passive House movement — would feature highly insulated building envelopes, airtight exteriors, and balanced ventilation systems designed to reduce energy needs while improving interior comfort.

Thermal grid.

This district energy system would deliver clean sources of heating and cooling to buildings through a network of water pipes and heat pumps. The thermal grid would draw clean energy from a variety of sources, including geothermal (underground) energy, building waste (or excess) heat, and wastewater (sewage) heat.

Anaerobic digestion.

An anaerobic digestion facility can convert organic (food) waste into a clean energy source called biogas.

Innovative bill structure.

A new structure could give customers the chance to select their monthly energy budgets in advance — just like they do with mobile phone data plans — and have total control and visibility into their power generation sources.

“Smart” trash chutes.

Smart chutes would measure waste volume in multi-family buildings and charge tenants for what they deposited; this proven “pay-as-you-throw” approach would create more transparency into the cost of waste, over time reducing waste overall.

Green infrastructure.

Rather than trying to control nature, we can design with it. Street and sidewalk plantings can help retain stormwater and purify it through natural means.

We have made important updates to the Sidewalk Toronto project. Learn more.