Sidewalk Labs project moves to next phase

February 19, 2020

By: The Working Forest Staff

TORONTO STAR — An evaluation team struck by Waterfront Toronto to assess Sidewalk Labs’ proposal has concluded the Manhattan firm’s project has “sufficient merit” to proceed to the next phase of the approvals process according to a report in the Toronto Star.

The statement by a six-member evaluation committee is based on a technical evaluation that staff of Waterfront Toronto, a tri-government agency, conducted on Sidewalk Labs’ proposed plans to develop a smart technology-driven neighbourhood on the waterfront called Quayside, a project calling for innovations such as data collecting sensors, wood-frame buildings and removable pavement.

The technical evaluation by Waterfront Toronto staff, released Tuesday, says of the 160 “solutions” or innovations Google sister firm Sidewalk Labs has put forward in its master plan for the proposed 12-acre neighbourhood, a large majority — 144 innovations or 90 percent — meet Waterfront Toronto’s objectives.

Some of the innovations include a mass timber factory producing materials for the construction for wood buildings, robots that detect when trash bins are full, roofs covered in vegetation to reduce stormwater runoff, a patent pledge of Sidewalk Labs’ digital innovations that would support the growth of Canadian innovations, and the use of common standards for digital systems and technologies used at Quayside.

The list of innovations supported by Waterfront Toronto will be prioritized, and the number may be pared down by the agency and Sidewalk Labs to fit the 12-acre Quayside, Waterfront Toronto says.

There are 16 innovations the technical evaluation says don’t meet Waterfront Toronto’s objectives for Quayside because the agency doesn’t think they’re feasible on 12 acres, including a sewage waste heat recovery system through a connection to the Ashbridge’s Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant, a system that produces biofuels from household organic waste and recurring payments from Waterfront Toronto to subsidize the operation of “advanced infrastructure.”

One innovation — “raincoats” for buildings Sidewalk Labs displayed at its head office on Queens Quay that are supposed to allow year-round use of some outdoor spaces by keeping away rain, snow, sleet, etc. — aren’t supported by Waterfront Toronto.

Footings or anchors for the devices end up being fastened on sidewalks, according to plans, and would be an impediment to accessibility, Waterfront Toronto says.

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