Water Treatment Facility Disguised as a Park


Waterfront Toronto, the innovative and ambitious plan to revitalize Toronto’s old harbour, has led to the development of Sherbourne Park, a new $28 million storm water treatment facility that will also function as an accessible public park. It’s a prime example of green infrastructure in action. The Star writes: “The idea that everything we build in a city should do double- (even triple-) duty is one whose time has come.” 

In a recent interview, Ken Smith, ASLA, a leading landscape architect, argued that green, multi-use infrastructure results from interdisciplinary teams. “If the problem in the past was having a single profession make a single-purpose infrastructure, then I think the solution in the future is really a multidisciplinary team of people who bring multiple interests and multiple functions to that infrastructure. I think we’re starting to see that more and more — it’s engineers, architects, landscape architects, and ecologists working together on a piece of infrastructure. That’s how you bring the green to the infrastructure and incorporate it into the infrastructure.”

Greg Smallenberg, ASLA, a principal with Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, the design firm which won the international competition for the park / water treatment facility, agrees and is bringing this approach to Sherbourne Park: “The days of the singular perspective are over. We’re getting more collaborative. I would say that as a profession, landscape architecture has become much more aware of these issues of rationalization of capital costs. This is becoming more popular now. The truth is we’ve been thinking along these lines a long time. You see this in the blurring of roles; it’s an indication that the professions realize we have to rely on each other. We now have road engineers calling us to collaborate on road design. Twenty years ago that would have been unthinkable.”

Sherbourne park will be designed to “reveal, even celebrate” the process of storm water purification. By making the water infrastructure visible, the designers also believe that they will demonstrate the system’s complexity (and its value) to an indifferent public. “At a time when Canada’s infrastructure deficit stands at $123 billion, such exposure couldn’t be more welcome. These are the systems, usually out of sight and out of mind, that provide the basic urban functions we take for granted but can no longer afford to do so.”

The $28.7 million park budget will largely go into the intricate ultra-violet (UV) water treatment equipment. “Beneath a pavilion designed by Toronto architect Stephen Teeple, water will undergo UV treatment. It then flows into the channel through three sculptures that rise nine metres above ground. The channel, which will figure prominently in the stormwater management system for the entire East Bayfront stretching from Yonge to Parliament Sts., also includes a biofiltration bed for further cleansing.”

The project is expected to launch in the fall.

Read the article and see more images of the facility.

The New York Times reports that increased financing is desperately needed to replace outdated water and sewage management systems across the U.S.. “Today, a significant water line bursts on average every two minutes somewhere in the country, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data.” Additionally, EPA studies show that $335 billion is needed to simply maintain existing water tap systems. Municipal water systems in New York alone will need $36 billion over 20 years. 

In Washington, D.C., the cost of replacing 100-year old pipes may be finally filtering down to residents. There are plans to raise average water rates by 17 percent, which would mean average households would pay $60 per month, with fees rising to $100 per month in a few years. With the extra funds, the city could replace all pipes in 100 years instead of three centuries.

Image credit: Waterfront Toronto

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