Carbon Emissions

Building Construction siteWaterfront Toronto is doing its part to reduce carbon emissions from the construction and operation of the buildings, parks, and neighbourhoods in newly revitalized waterfront communities.

For example, the Lower Don Lands, now part of the Port Lands precinct, is one of the founding projects of the C40 Climate Positive Development Program. The program supports projects that are striving to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions below zero, termed "climate positive". This "climate positive" outcome is achieved by reducing emissions on-site and in neighbouring communities.

The Carbon Tool

In collaboration with the C40-Climate Positive Development Program and with funding support from the Ontario Power Authority, we developed a Carbon Tool to understand how we could achieve this target. The tool analyzes and compares the sustainability performance of projects at the design and planning phase over a baseline. This is done to understand how well a project is expected to perform over a build-as-usual scenario and what additional strategies and targets need to be applied to achieve carbon reductions. The tool does this by quantifying and visualizing the relationships between development decisions and sustainability outcomes. During this process, we are able to see how sustainability strategies in energy, water, waste, transport, and materials impact carbon reductions and explore new ways of improving performance.

The Carbon Tool produced preliminary results on projected carbon emissions for the West Don Lands precinct. It compared a scenario that implements Waterfront Toronto's Minimum Green Building Requirements (MGBR) and best practices with a baseline build-as-usual scenario. The Carbon Tool estimated a 29% emissions reduction potential by applying the MGBR scenario to a neighbourhood. We also ran a second scenario, which assessed carbon reductions at an elevated level of performance. This showed us what sustainability strategies would be necessary to achieve carbon levels below zero.

Estimate reductions in carbon emissions from baseline

The table and chart below demonstrate the estimated contribution of each focus area to carbon emissions in the West Don Lands. Energy and transport contribute the greatest amount to our carbon emissions and, as such, we aim to focus our efforts to reduce carbon predominately in those two areas. 

Carbon emissions by focus area

Carbon emissions by focus area pie chart

The following chart displays the breakdown of estimated carbon emissions by land use type. Buildings (housing, commercial/government, and retail) represent the largest sources of carbon emissions, and therefore the best opportunity to reduce overall emissions.

Carbon emissions by land use pie chart

We will report on the actual sustainability performance and carbon reductions once the build-out of the West Don Lands community is complete.

Villiers Island

In 2015, Waterfront Toronto used the Carbon Tool for the Villiers Island precinct plan. The Carbon Tool predicted an overall carbon reduction of 23% compared to the baseline. Waterfront Toronto is currently using the Carbon Tool outputs to influence planning and policy recommendations that will help meet our climate positive goals. Examples include:

  • Establishing aggressive energy use intensity targets for buildings;
  • Implementing zero carbon energy solutions, such as district heating and cooling, combined heat and power facilities, and renewable energy generation; and
  • Reducing transportation emissions through compact development, active transportation, transit connectivity, and zero-emissions vehicle.

In July 2015, Waterfront Toronto added a feature to the Carbon Tool that categorizes emissions into scope 1, 2 and 3. Scope 1 refers to direct greenhouse gas emissions such as those associated with producing electricity, heating, and cooling on-site. Scope 2 refers to indirect emissions such as those associated with purchased electricity, heating, and cooling off-site.  Scope 3 refers to other indirect emissions such as those associated with waste or the extraction and production of materials. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol standard was used to categorize scope 1, 2 and 3. The following chart identifies the estimated scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon reductions for Villiers Island.

Carbon emissions by scope 1, 2, and 3