October 11, 2004

Sustainability framework proposals would make Toronto's waterfront a national, global model

A new draft Sustainability Framework for the Toronto waterfront provides a comprehensive series of action plans through which the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC) aims to make the city's waterfront a national and global model for sustainability. The framework, released late last month for public comment, sets out a co-ordinated approach, promoting many of the sustainability policies supported by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

The 11 action plans address the themes of energy, land use, transportation, air quality, water quality, materials and waste, sustainable buildings, natural heritage, human communities, cultural resources and innovation. By systematically applying sustainability principles to activities in all of these areas, TWRC expects to achieve what it calls its Net Plus(tm) goal.

One of the framework's five overall goals, Net Plus expresses the idea that revitalization will provide sustainability benefits which will have a positive net impact both on the waterfront area itself and on the city as a whole. Over the next 20 years, says the TWRC, the waterfront will become Net Plus for all facets of revitalization.

The framework's action plans are intended to meet objectives such as: high levels of energy efficiency and increased percentage of energy consumption from renewable sources; minimized car use, together with increased walking, cycling and use of public transitl; clean air and water, including reduced concentrations of smog, protection of groundwater from contamination and better water quality in Lake Ontario; waste reduction, re-use and recycling, and on-site containment of waste; more sustainable buildings and longer life for buildings and related structures; habitat improvement; local economic development; and recapture of the value of abandoned and underused sites.

Land use planning, says the TWRC, is a fundamental driver of sustainable communities, and is linked to most of the framework's other themes. Recapturing the value of abandoned and underused sites is an important objective within this theme, or action plan, and the TRWC calls for the creation of a brownfields remediation strategy for Toronto's waterfront in order to fulfill this objective.

Sustainable land use will optimize street layout and building placement so as to save energy, provide access to the lake and foster community interaction. Mixed land use and compact urban development are also essential to community sustainability, says the TWRC plan.

Energy consumption is a prime determinant of whether a community is moving toward greater sustainability, and the TWRC states unequivocally that "no community is considered a sustainable community without a genuine commitment to sustainable energy practices." The framework calls for the Toronto waterfront to aggressively pursue a Net Plus energy plan, with the ultimate result being not only conservation and generation of enough energy for its own needs, but revenue generation through the sale of clean energy to the greater Toronto area.

Among the activities proposed are detailed technical studies of the potential for energy generation from solar, wind and geothermal sources and from methane on the Toronto waterfront, and development of a strategy for making the Toronto waterfront a net exporter of renewable energy within the next 20 years. The framework also proposes energy use targets, calling for 10% of energy to be derived from on-site renewable sources by 2010 (based on city of Toronto 2004 levels), and 30% of energy purchases to come from low-impact renewable energy by 2010 (rising to 80% by 2020).

A personal waste reduction target is among the measures proposed in the framework's action plan on materials and waste; it calls for a waste disposal target of 200 kilograms per person per year. To promote re-use and recycling, particularly of construction materials, the plan proposes that 75% of lumber be obtained from sustainable plantations or recycled sources and 25% of building materials from recycled or renewable sources.

Other recommended actions include the establishment of a facility for on-site composting of organic waste, and the setting of protocols for limiting the use of PVC, chlorinated solvents and solvent-based paints furing the first five year of waterfront revitalization work.

The full framework document may be viewed on the TWRC Web site, www.towaterfront.ca.

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