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green initiatives

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healthy trees


Trees play a central role on our new waterfront. Not only do they provide welcome shade, they help clean the air and improve the environment. Over the course of the waterfront revitalization project, we’ll be planting about 34,000 new trees that will help define our waterfront and restore the natural beauty of our shoreline. Waterfront Toronto is aiming to cover 30-35% of our revitalization area with trees – contributing to the City’s plan to increase Toronto’s tree canopy to 30-40% over the next 50 years.


We’re working to save existing trees and making smart choices when planting new trees by choosing native species. Native species generally require much less water to thrive and do not introduce the risk of ecosystem disruption. They are also tolerant to our climate and levels of urban pollution.


We’re also taking measures to enhance terrestrial habitat including creating favourable conditions for migratory birds. All of these efforts will help to reduce the heat island effect, purify the air, improve stormwater management, and add beauty to our new neighbourhoods.


new technology


Growing trees to maturity in an urban environment is difficult. New trees face challenges including damage from exposure, pollution and salt from winter road maintenance. However research shows that the most taxing issue for all urban trees is soil compaction. Soil under pavement is highly compacted and lacks adequate volume for root growth, causing trees to die prematurely within approximately seven to ten years after planting.


Waterfront Toronto is working with leading tree experts and employing new tree planting technology, which installs a tiered web of rigid boxes – called silva cells – designed to house an average of 30 cubic metres of nutrient soil per tree. These reinforced cells provide support for the soil so it won’t compact under the weight of the pavement, allowing roots to spread and thrive resulting in healthier mature trees.


Silva cells have been installed in several new parks and public spaces throughout East Bayfront and West Don Lands.  


aquatic habitat


Through our partnership with Aquatic Habitat Toronto (AHT), Waterfront Toronto has made a commitment to incorporating improvements to aquatic habitat in all projects we undertake at the water’s edge. Information about our strategy for Aquatic Habitat improvements can be found in our Parks and Public Space Framework.


The results to date have been promising as aquatic and terrestrial communities begin to show signs of recovery In total, 108,920 m2 and 3,133 linear metres of aquatic habitat has been created or improved through Waterfront Toronto projects. Recent monitoring results have shown:


  • The number of fish species caught in the inner harbour increased from 5 to 27 from 2001 to 2013.
  • 78% of the fish caught (by abundance) in the Toronto harbour are Emerald Shiner, an important forage fish in the Lake Ontario fish community.
  • Northern Pike are the most abundant fish by biomass. Northern Pike is very important to the aquatic food web as it a native top predator. The abundance of Northern Pike also offers recreational opportunities for people as it is a fish species desired by anglers.
  • In 2009, Round Whitefish (a rare, native fish species) was caught for the first time by TRCA in the Outer Harbour.


Additional information and reports are available on Aquatic Habitat Toronto’s website.


completed improvements:


We have opened new parks and public spaces along the eastern and western parts of the City, improving the aquatic habitats in those areas in partnership with Toronto and Region Conservation.


  • More than 1700 square metres of aquatic habitat were created during the construction of the wavedecks in the central waterfront. At the Spadina WaveDeck, the area is situated next to the pike spawning area of the Spadina wetlands. To create aquatic habitat in this deep water, sea wall environment, a variety of different measures were used such as boulders, smaller aggregate, root balls, large logs and other things to provide lots of spaces for fish to hide. Now aquatic plants can root in amongst the habitat features providing both food and shelter. Similar installations were created at the Rees and Simcoe wavedecks where brand new aquatic habitat provides an environment for fish to reproduce, forage, live, and grow.
  • Mimico Waterfront Park was constructed through a lakefilling process along a narrow section of the existing shoreline. Restoration and shoreline enhancements to terrestrial and aquatic habitats were key elements of the park’s design and construction.
  • Port Union Waterfront Park provides access to the shoreline, trails, wetlands, pedestrian lookouts and cobblestone beaches.  Shoreline restoration improvements and the creation of additional aquatic and terrestrial habitat were important parts of the both phases of the park.
  • New aquatic habitat was built as part of the Western Beaches Watercourse. The project included the creation of an approximately 650 metres long breakwater with new aquatic habitat installations.


aquatic habitat toronto


Waterfront Toronto is one of the founding members of Aquatic Habitat Toronto, a consensus based partnership between agencies with a vested interest in the improvement of aquatic habitat on Toronto’s waterfront. Aquatic Habitat Toronto is responsible for the implementation of the Toronto Waterfront Aquatic Habitat Restoration Strategy (TWAHRS). The overall goal of the Strategy is “to develop and achieve consensus on an aquatic habitat restoration strategy that will maximize the potential ecological integrity of the Toronto waterfront.”


AHT also provides support for those working on the waterfront by facilitating the approvals process (e.g., environmental assessments, federal and/or provincial, and fisheries approvals). When a proponent is working on the waterfront and there is any chance of negatively impacting fish habitat, compensation for the potential loss is required. AHT helps direct and design aquatic habitat compensation plans that satisfy TWAHRS and provide aquatic habitat in appropriate locations.


award winning work


In 2008, Aquatic Habitat Toronto won an “Award of Excellence” recognizing outstanding achievements in public service at the Public Sector Quality Fair. The PSQF is a province-wide showcase for service excellence in government, health care and education. In 2007, AHT received a Silver Award from PSQF.


transit first


Transit is vital to a vibrant and connected waterfront. Waterfront Toronto is committed to implementing transit in advance of or in tandem with development. Developing and constructing bike paths and pedestrian links between the waterfront neighbourhoods and the rest of the city is also a key consideration in all development plans. Waterfront Toronto’s transit strategy and other initiatives will reap environmental benefits now and for generations to come.


the five-minute transit commitment


Each new waterfront community will be fully served by transit, and the plan focuses on streetcars in dedicated right-of-ways and light rail. Virtually every residence will be within five minutes of a transit stop, reducing the need for private vehicles as a primary means of transport to and from home or work in waterfront neighbourhoods.


climate positive development program


The Climate Positive Development Program is a Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) program launched by President Bill Clinton in 2009 to support the development of large-scale urban projects that demonstrate cities can grow in ways that are “climate positive”.  Climate positive developments will strive to reduce the amount of on-site greenhouse gas emissions to below zero.


The Lower Don Lands is one of 17 founding projects of the program.  Along with the other founding projects, the Lower Don Lands will demonstrate climate positive strategies, setting a compelling environmental and economic example for cities to follow.


To achieve climate-positive goals for the design and plans for the Lower Don Lands, Waterfront Toronto is using passive design, optimizing climatic effects from sun and wind, and prioritizing transit and multi-mode transportation options. Energy planning raises the bar for energy efficiency in the built form and helps to deemphasize reliance on the grid. Planning and design for the area also includes strategies for water re-use and leading edge information technology to support sustainable living and working.


working together


To reduce the net greenhouse gas emissions, property developers and local governments will work in partnership on specific areas of activity. This includes implementing economically viable innovations in buildings, the generation of clean energy, waste management, water management, and transportation and outdoor lighting systems.


By combining CCI’s business and finance expertise with the technical knowledge of the US Green Building Council, the Climate Positive Development program will support the planning and implementation process for each development and establish the standards and metrics by which the sites can measure climate positive outcomes. When the initial projects are completed, nearly one million people will live and work in climate positive communities.


about the clinton climate initiative


The William J. Clinton Foundation launched the Clinton Climate Initiative  to create and advance solutions to the core issues driving climate change. The Climate Positive Development Program was launched by President Clinton, Founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, on May 19, 2009, at the C40 Summit in Seoul, South Korea.


C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group


carbon tool


Waterfront Toronto is working to create green, liveable and prosperous communities. Waterfront Toronto’s Carbon Tool supports this effort by driving sustainability considerations into neighbourhood designs, while ensuring new waterfront neighbourhoods are designed using the best and most progressive sustainability tools.


Waterfront Toronto’s Carbon Tool was a collaborative effort. The team was led by Waterfront Toronto and Arup in collaboration with the C40-Clinton Climate Initiative, Climate Positive Development Program, and the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto with funding support from the Ontario Power Authority. The Carbon Tool is based on climate positive objectives and will be used by Climate Positive Development projects around the world.


what is the carbon tool?


The Carbon Tool is a spreadsheet-based assessment instrument that allows its users to measure sustainability performance in key areas such as land use, energy, water, waste, transportation, and materials. Each area has a set of strategies and associated target levels that can be adjusted, allowing the tool to assess the range of possible sustainability outcomes during the development of planning alternatives.


The Carbon Tool enables the user to understand the relationship between development decisions and sustainability and to explore ways of improving performance and reducing carbon emissions. It performs calculations and produces visual outputs for the aggregate development project in question.


The Carbon Tool will allow Waterfront Toronto to contribute to a significant carbon footprint reduction and address the challenges of global climate change across waterfront neighbourhoods. It will also help to drive innovations in construction, clean energy generation, waste management, water management, and transportation.


west don lands as a test


The West Don Lands was the first waterfront community to benefit from the Carbon Tool. It was used to discover how applying it to model the community could help to improve neighbourhood planning and design decisions. The Carbon Tool predicted the following when comparing the approved plans for the West Don Lands against a baseline, 'build-as-usual' scenario, demonstrating the value of the tool and the advanced sustainability features included in Waterfront Toronto’s plans for the West Don Lands precinct:


  • 19% electrical energy savings vs. a baseline, ‘build-as-usual’ scenario
  • 25% thermal energy savings vs. a baseline, ‘build-as-usual’ scenario
  • 42% potable water use savings vs. a baseline, ‘build-as-usual’ scenario
  • 33% savings in waste landfilled vs. a baseline, ‘build-as-usual’ scenario
  • 49% savings of carbon related to materials vs. a baseline, ‘build-as-usual’ scenario
  • 4% savings of carbon related to transport vs. a baseline, ‘build-as-usual’ scenario


By employing the strategies modeled in the test, the approved plans for the West Don Lands would achieve a total carbon savings of 29% versus the baseline, ‘build-as-usual’ scenario. The results also showed that the majority of carbon is attributed to energy and transport. The outputs help the project team determine where to direct efforts to reduce carbon.


Click here to view infographics that graphically depict the West Don Lands modelling results.

Carbon Tool Demo 

Please click here for a limited version of the carbon tool for demonstration purposes only.


environmental management plan


As part of our commitment to sustainable development, Waterfront Toronto requires that all of our project’s construction managers comply with our Environmental Management Plan for Project-Related Activities (EMP). This document supports our Sustainability Framework (2005) through the establishment of measures to prevent pollution and environmental impairment, preserve cultural and natural resources, protect wildlife habitat and ensure compliance with applicable legislation, regulations, policies and guidelines.

environmental protection plans (EPP)


The Environmental Management Plan includes Environmental Protection Plans (EPPs) which construction managers are required to submit to Waterfront Toronto when a project commences. Environmental Protection Plans are included for:


  • Air Quality and Dust Management
  • Archaeological and Built Heritage Resources Management
  • Contaminated Soils Management
  • Erosion and Sediment Control
  • Fuel and Lubricants Management
  • Groundwater Management
  • Methane Control
  • Noise and Vibration Management
  • Project-related Waste Management
  • Stormwater/Surface Water Management
  • Traffic Management
  • Vegetation Management
  • Wildlife Management 


Construction managers are required to report quarterly on each relevant EPP. These Quarterly Update Reports ensure that Waterfront Toronto staff can track the impacts of the project-related activities and verify that our sustainable development goals are being met or exceeded.


Projects are also required to follow the Contingency and Emergency Response Plans included in the Environmental Management Plan. These plans are put into place before proceeding with Waterfront Toronto projects to address the consequences of unforeseen occurrences such as operational upsets and malfunctions.


soil management


The revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront is one of the largest urban brownfield projects in the world and Waterfront Toronto is striving to raise the bar on brownfield remediation. To deal with the almost 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of waterfront land requiring remediation prior to redevelopment, we are planning to use the latest and best technologies to, wherever possible, treat and reuse soil, rather than "digging and dumping", which simply transfers the contamination and problems to landfill sites.


why recycle soil?


Renewal of the waterfront depends on our ability to deal with soil that has been impacted by decades of industrial uses, and by infilling long ago when environmental standards were not as stringent as today.


Remediation efforts within the waterfront include the excavation and removal of contaminated soil, which is expected to generate in excess of two-million cubic metres of contaminated soil over the next 10-20 years.


In our soil management approach, soils are considered a resource that needs to be managed in a sustainable manner; soil will be recycled to the greatest extent possible within the waterfront area. Recycling soil would help ensure that sufficient soils are available for revitalization activities, and reduce the need to import soils from elsewhere.


pilot soil recycling facility


Waterfront Toronto conducted a pilot soil recycling project that is innovative in the Ontario context, and one of few performed in Canada. The pilot soil recycling facility in the Port Lands was established in 2010 to determine the viability of treating and reusing impacted soils and is the first step in the larger plan to treat contaminated soil to an environmental condition that allows it to be reused in future residential, parkland and commercial areas. The pilot enabled Waterfront Toronto to assess the effectiveness and economic performance of the technologies and optimize operations before embarking on a permanent, a full-scale facility.


After consulting the public and stakeholders and obtaining all necessary Ontario Ministry of Environment approvals, the pilot facility was set up in the summer of 2010. In the fall, the operators processed approximately 20,000 cubic metres of soil from Toronto’s waterfront employing soil washing, complemented by field trials of a number of other cutting-edge technologies.


soil recycling results


Waterfront Toronto commissioned a study to understand and quantify the benefits of soil recycling versus conventional disposal. The study demonstrated that Waterfront Toronto’s pilot project reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 36kg/tonne of soil moved, for an estimated savings of $65M over the life of the long-term facility. It also projected that a full-scale soil recycling facility would have significant environmental and economic benefits:


  • Associated truck travel would be reduced by about 80%, resulting in reduced road maintenance, fewer traffic accidents and reduced traffic noise;
  • Associated greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by about 75%, resulting in reduced societal, environmental and health costs;
  • Recycling soils would reduce the need for landfill capacity and new aggregate.


pilot facility operators


Following an international request for proposals and a rigorous review in late 2009, two teams – DEC, in partnership with Coffey Geotechnics, and Tetra Tech/Stuyvesant Environmental Contracting – were chosen to conduct the soil recycling pilot.  Both teams had extensive experience operating similar facilities in Europe and the United States, and for Waterfront Toronto’s project engaged a Canadian partner familiar with local conditions.


The pilot confirmed the effectiveness and economic performance of recycling soil, giving Waterfront Toronto the confidence to move forward with a long-term facility.  In 2012, Waterfront Toronto chose Green Soils, an industry leader with over 20 years of experience managing contaminated soil, to own, operate and manage a long-term recycling facility in the Port Lands.


how was the environment protected?


Every effort was made to ensure that the facility was operated in a way that was protective of human health and the natural environment. Before receipt at the facility, soils underwent pre-testing to determine quality and the levels and types of contamination. Soil containing hazardous waste were not accepted, and were disposed of at an Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) licensed hazardous waste landfill facility.  Dust control, air monitoring, water, and runoff control measures were in place as part of the operational procedures.


The site was managed by The Cannington Group, a full service contractor serving the Province of Ontario. They were responsible for facility management and maintenance services, including management of all incoming soils, stockpiles and project records, as well as implementing the onsite health, safety and environmental management plans.


award winning approach


Waterfront Toronto’s Pilot Soil Recycling Facility and innovative approach to soil remediation were acknowledged with a 2010 Canadian Urban Institute Brownie Award.


The prestigious Brownie Awards are considered the Canadian industry standard for recognizing excellence in leadership and innovation in brownfield redevelopment and commitment to the remediation of brownfield projects.

Port Lands pilot soil recycling facility image gallery










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