Sidewalk Labs Toronto Tomorrow June 2019

Sidewalk Labs details plans for Toronto smart city

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Chloe Vaughan

Urban innovation runs throughout ambitious plans for a smart city outside Toronto proposed by Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs.

The 1,500-page Master Innovation + Development Plan proposes two major pilot developments for the C$3.9bn high-tech development, starting on the 540,000 sq ft Quayside area and then moving onto 840,000 sq ft at Villier’s West.

There would be 4,300 residential units, 40% of which will be below the standard market price and will house around 6,900 people. Sidewalk aims to attract 11,300 jobs in areas ranging from tech to timber, with 36% of the space lined up for commercial use. Retail, production and social leisure will use 10% of the space. If the Canadian Government find the innovations in these sites a success, then there is the option to further expand into a 6.9m sq ft area named the Innovative Development + Economic Acceleration District, or IDEA district.

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Some of Sidewalk Labs’ proposed innovations:

Smart Cities

  • Infrastructure: thermal grid, advanced storm water management, pneumatic waste collection, electric vehicle systems, extension of existing light railway
  • Connectivity to super-fast Passive Optical Network to allow Sidewalk Labs to deploy further innovations in future
  • Standardised mounts, a variation of plugs, will be attached to street poles and traffic signals across the site, like an ‘urban USB port’, providing power and connectivity for WiFi antennae, traffic counters and air quality sensors
  • Use of sensors to make a smart city that adapts to the needs of the individual, for instance sensors in road crossings to allow more time for the less able
  • Advanced security systems designed to prevent disruptions, and ensure that if disruptions do occur, rapidly detect them and restore functionality

Urban innovation

  • Google’s Canadian headquarters in a 1.5m sq ft Innovation Campus
  • Sidewalk Labs has promised C$10m seed funding for the Urban Innovation Institute, a non-profit applied research institute designed to tackle challenges that have arisen out of the development of modern cities
  • And a C$10m venture fund for investment in Canadian startups

Climate change

  • Development will be the first climate positive community on a large scale in North America, and one of the largest in the world
  • At full IDEA district scale, the area will generate 89% less greenhouse gas emissions per capita than downtown Toronto
  • Contribute 0.69 annual tonnes of clean energy per capita back to the city by using both offsite and onsite initiatives
  • First neighbourhood built entirely from ‘mass timber’, a more sustainable method of construction with all the strength and fire resistance of steel and concrete. Sidewalk Labs will invest C$80m into the tall timber industry to help with this
  • Real-time metering of energy systems to improve efficiency of buildings
  • Sidewalk Labs would build an anaerobic digestion facility to process 45,150 tonnes of organic material and turn it into biogas. This would produce nearly 1.3 megawatts and offset nearly 11,000 annual tonnes of CO2
  • Materials Recovery Facility, which separates and decontaminates waste to be sold to recycling facilities and scrapyards

Data

  • Standardised open and publicly accessible data collection service that would allow further innovation and develop services, apps, and systems to help tackle urban challenges
  • Urban Data Trust would be created in order to establish clear guidelines for responsible data use and oversee applications to collect or use data
  • Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs said that the information collected would be immediately depersonalised. The company will not “sell personal information or disclose it to third parties without explicit consent”.

According to Doctoroff, this plan not only shows what is “possible, but feasible in a place where you can combine innovations across all of these different urban systems to produce meaningful and in some cases dramatic changes in quality of life. The notion of combining in one place thoughtful innovation with great urban design and producing truly game changing results, has managed to show what is possible.”

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