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.