Knowledge

We’re working with Sidewalk Labs to tame Toronto weather

The urban innovation firm Sidewalk Labs is envisioning “a new kind of neighbourhood” in Toronto. Waterfront Toronto, a government agency mandated to revitalize portions of the city’s waterfront, chose the firm as an innovation and funding partner last year, seeking ambitious ideas for a parcel of land called Quayside. 

Sidewalk Labs has responded with new approaches to everything from building materials to transportation. But Torontonians – accustomed to frigid winters and sticky summers – might take special note of Sidewalk Labs’ goal of taking the edge off the weather. RWDI is working alongside Partisans Architecture, BBB Architects, and Public Work (landscape architect) to help Sidewalk Labs meet the goal of more than doubling the number of daytime hours in a year the district is thermally comfortable. 

Since early 2018, we’ve developed dozens of passive strategies for mitigating uncomfortable weather conditions. We’ve also been doing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) work to validate the efficacy of these mitigation ideas. We estimate that it is indeed possible to more than double the number of comfortable daylight hours – from about 30% to 74%. 

In June, members of our team attended a public open house at Sidewalk Labs’ new space in Toronto to share some of our early work and findings. Several hundred people attended, taking in a scale model of our wind tunnel, videos of our wind tunnel testing and water flume work, and large-scale visualizations of our CFD analysis.

Nadine Soliman, Goncalo Pedro and Michael Carl at the Sidewalk Labs open house event
Nadine Soliman, Goncalo Pedro and Michael Carl at the Sidewalk Labs open house event
Brandon Law sharing RWDI’s work with the public
Brandon Law sharing RWDI’s work with the public
Over the next few months, we’ll be working with Partisans Architecture to deploy and test full-scale prototypes of some of the weather mitigation systems. We’ll be able measure the actual impact of the systems, and compare the on-site measurements to the predicted CFD and wind tunnel results. Our methodology and findings will be presented in a Sidewalk Toronto report that will be made available to the public this winter.