Ensuring good air quality for residents of an urban neighbourhood in transition
Helping the developer of a major condominium on Toronto’s waterfront understand air quality in the area, navigate regulations, and communicate with stakeholders.
After decades of seeing the waterfront as a place for industrial and shipping activity, more Torontonians now want to live, shop and play by the lake. Residential property developers are eager to meet this growing demand, but can run into barriers arising from industrial activity and a complicated regulatory landscape. In 2009, a developer approached our Environmental practice area seeking assistance with approvals for their project. The exceptionally diverse mix of land uses and building structures around the area, combined with the lakeshore environment, made it difficult to accurately map the flow of air contaminants. A lack of publicly available information about the nature of nearby emissions compounded the difficulty of getting an accurate picture of the local air-quality challenges.
Our response to this challenge drew on three core capabilities:
- rich and versatile technical and scientific skills
- deep knowledge of the City’s planning and the Province’s environmental regulations
- outstanding project-management capabilities to ensure that all information and communications flowed in a timely and effective way.
The specific question our client needed to answer was whether construction of a residential building would place any additional regulatory demands on nearby industrial facilities, a circumstance that could lead the City to reject the development proposal. If the new development would present new air-quality demands that would affect nearby industry, our client wanted to be equipped with a solution. Our team’s regulatory expertise and our technical skills were both vital to helping our client tackle the project’s unknowns and present accurate information to other stakeholders.
Because the site was in an unusual built environment on the shore of one of the world’s largest lakes, standard air-quality tools (such as computer-based air dispersion model simulations) were unlikely to give a sufficiently accurate picture of the site’s challenges. Publicly available information about local air-quality emissions was also in short supply. In order to fill in these critical data gaps, we developed new applications of both measurement and air dispersion modelling tools, and undertook innovative statistical data analysis.
After the process was completed, our client reflected that in addition to our technical and regulatory knowledge, RWDI’s outstanding project management and communication skills were critical factors in the project’s success. RWDI acted as an essential link between the client, the relevant technical specialists, and the various stakeholders and their legal representatives. Projects of this nature demand intensive periods of communication and negotiation, quick turnaround times for feedback and analysis, and an exceptionally high standard of service and responsiveness overall. Our client emphasized that our ability to deliver in these areas was vital to the project’s outcome.
The developer won approval to proceed with the project, having settled with all stakeholders involved in the approval process without the need for an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing. Our work in the region is well known and well regarded, and developers seeking to create projects in Toronto’s increasingly vibrant waterfront neighbourhood routinely seek out our expertise.