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Google's parent company revealed its plan for a high-tech neighborhood in Toronto — and it could be

Posted August 15, 2018 4:3 PM
Google's parent company revealed its plan for a high-tech neighborhood in Toronto — and it could be the world's largest tall timber project

Toronto Sidewalk Labs

Sidewalk Labs — the urban innovation subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet — is thinking about using an unprecedented amount of tall timber technology, in which layers of timber are glued together in panels, to build a high-tech neighborhood on Toronto's waterfront.

Waterfront Toronto, a local group that administers revitalization projects, is working with Sidewalk Labs to design the new neighborhood, called Quayside. The 12-acre development — expected to cost at least $1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal — will feature heated roadways and other innovations. 

If the neighborhood is built as planned, it could be the largest tall timber development in the world, according to Bloomberg.

The new development has generated some criticism. Business Insider previously reported that residents felt Quayside could become a "new Silicon Valley," leading to gentrification, income inequality, and higher housing prices.

After remaining quiet for several months about its exact plans for the Toronto waterfront, Sidewalk Labs shared a series of ideas for the development in a Tuesday announcement. Take a look.

Toronto, like many other cities, is struggling to maintain its socioeconomic diversity due to a rise in housing costs and congestion. Climate change is also contributing to the city's challenges.

Quayside, which used to be an industrial space and dockland, is Sidewalk Labs' planned pilot location for testing what could be implemented on a larger scale. 

The proposed modular housing, for example, could be used as a model for more neighborhoods that offer low-cost, quickly built residential spaces, according to Sidewalk Labs. The planned self-driving shuttles could form a transit system that doesn't rely on private cars, and the neighborhood's renewable energy system could act as a blueprint for other locations.


Sidewalk Labs has committed about $50 million to the project's first phase, though the company is still waiting on a final approval.

Waterfront Toronto intends to build infrastructure that can help protect Quayside from flooding, and it received a $996 million investment from the local and national governments to support the project.

Quayside is one of the largest areas of underdeveloped urban land in North America. Sidewalk Labs plans on devoting 90% of the neighborhood to residential space, or about 3,000 units.

The entire neighborhood covers about 3 million square feet. 

A sustainable building model is the first step toward creating an affordable neighborhood, according to Sidewalk Labs. The Alphabet subsidiary plans on using Canadian timber to achieve this.

Sidewalk Labs is interested in building all or most of Quayside's buildings using tall timber.

Proponents of tall timber technology say the material is a viable replacement for steel and concrete because it is strong and fire-resistant. According to Sidewalk Labs, tall timber supports Canada's timber industry, provides warmth to residential spaces, accelerates construction times, and saves money in the long run.

But tall timber comes with some restrictions. The Canadian construction code limits tall-timber buildings to six stories in order to avoid structural issues, so regulations would need to be amended for Quayside. Current timber supply chains also need to grow before they can support such a large construction project. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Credit: Sidewalk Labs


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