Municipality: Toronto Implementation: 2011-01-01
Policy Name: Waterfront - Minimum Green Building Requirements Contact: Lisa Prime
Department: Sustainability Title: Director of Sustainability
Community profile:

The revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront is the largest urban redevelopment project currently underway in North America, and it is one of the largest waterfront revitalization efforts ever undertaken in the world.

The total area being revitalized is 800 hectares (1,977 acres) and it is expected to take 25 years to complete.

The revitalization project will create approximately 40,000 new residences and 40,000 new jobs. 

Between 2001 and March 2010, work on the waterfront had already generated approximately 9,700 full-time years of employment and contributed $1.9 billion to the Canadian economy.

Short Description:

The MGBR are a set of green standards intended to achieve high performance buildings and sustainable neighbourhoods and apply to all building projects controlled by Waterfront Toronto.


As part of Waterfront Toronto’s commitment to sustainable city building and to being agents of real estate market transformation, Minimum Green Building Requirements (MGBR) were developed to achieve high performance buildings and sustainable neighbourhoods. The MGBR are a set of green standards that apply to all building projects controlled by Waterfront Toronto. 

The MGBR were first introduced in 2006 and included targets for energy efficiency and LEED Gold certification. At a time when LEED was newly introduced to Canada, Waterfront Toronto identified LEED Gold as the stretch target intended to transform the market by expecting developers on the waterfront to reach for an elevated level of performance from what was typical construction. The MGBR sets out a list of mandatory items, some within the LEED program and some as the focus of sustainable city attributes that were deemed necessary to contribute to a cultural shift in the waterfront neighbourhoods. The intent was that people start to behave differently, reflecting the progressive environment in which they have chosen to live.  

In 2011, the MGBR was updated to better reflect current market conditions, changes to the regulatory environment, and the desires of current Toronto residents. New requirements such as those supporting smart building design and electric vehicle infrastructure, as well as LEED credits for water efficient landscaping, water use reduction and on-site renewable energy were added to continue to push the bar on sustainability. Furthermore, the energy efficiency requirement went from 40% cost savings relative the Model National Energy Code for Buildings to 50%. Waterfront Toronto requires all developers engaged in WT controlled projects to adhere to the MGBR, which are included in legally binding development agreements.

Step by Step Process:

  • Review existing MGBR (each requirement was re-evaluated relative to the current market response to green building practices and projected future standards)
  • Review precedents and global best practices
  • Developed draft
  • Stakeholder and Focus Group consultation and condominium tenant focus group sessions (draft targets and requirements were reviewed).
  • Stakeholder feedback was used to further refine the requirements
  • Analyzing the synergies related to other existing green building standards that most developers would likely be familiar with, such as LEED, the Toronto Green Standard, and the City of Toronto Green Roof Bylaw
  • Analyze cost impacts to confirm feasibility
  • Finalize MGBR

Primary Drivers:

Market transformation

  • Pushing the bar on sustainability
  • Implementing Sustainability Framework
  • Moving towards Climate Positive


  • OPA for funding support
  • Waterfront Toronto’s CEO and Sustainability Department for execution (with consultant Halsall)


Obstacles: n/a 




MGBR are embedded into Development Agreements between Waterfront Toronto and developers, enabling its compliance (Waterfront Toronto holds Letters of Credit).


No developer partner has completed a building to date using the MGBR. As a result no data is available on actual performance and efficiency. However, the Waterfront Toronto Carbon Tool, which incorporates the MGBR, predicts the following: 39% energy savings; 42% potable water use savings; 36% savings in waste landfilled; and 36% savings of carbon related to materials. This amounts to a total carbon (primary and secondary) savings of 32%. 


  • OPA energy efficiency incentive program to help developers meet energy targets
  • Some overlapping targets with Toronto Green Standard Tier 1  and 2


The Carbon Tool outputs for the West Don Lands, comparing scenario 1 (which includes the MGBR) to the baseline, predict the following: 39% energy savings; 42% potable water use savings; 36% savings in waste landfilled; and 36% savings of carbon related to materials. This amounts to a total carbon (primary and secondary) savings of 32%.

Lessons Learned:

  • Important to align with other requirements such as the City of Toronto Green Standard and Green Roof Bylaw. This prevents unnecessary duplication and / or contradiction of targets.  
  • Consultation with stakeholder and focus groups important process to gain insight and consensus from those that will be directly and indirectly affected by MGBR
  • Economic impact important to determine market feasibility

Applicability Across Ontario:

Waterfront Toronto’s success with the MGBR is intended to pave the way for municipalities or any entity that can incent builders through development agreements or planning approvals, to implement similar green building standards. 

Similar Tools Used by Other Municipalities:

  • City of Toronto Green Standard
  • LEED New Construction

Further Information: