Partners in Action – Shade Policy for the City of Toronto

About one-third of people in Ontario will develop a skin cancer during their lifetime. We know for sure that ultra-violet radiation is the cause of about 90%-95% of skin cancers. So it’s certainly true that some people are at greater risk of sun damage and skin cancer than others. So the factors that would put you at increased risk would be: fair skin, burning easily, blue eyes,
fair hair, family history of skin cancer. You see people, when you are a practicing dermatologist, you see the devastation that a serious skin cancer can cause. I also see a tremendous amount of skin cancer and I have
to say that over the years, I have been struck by the increase in the number of skin cancers that I’ve been seeing. So, basil cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as melanomas. One of the main ways to protect
yourself from the sun is to seek shade. Children are most vulnerable age group when it comes to sun and UV rays, and especially when they’re in care because the Day Nurseries Act actually asks them to make sure that children are outside for at least 2 hours every day. And also when they’re young and they’re outside and playing, that poses a problem when it comes to protection. The Shade policy for the City of Toronto speaks to the fact that shade is a very effective strategy to protect against ultra-violet radiation, over exposure to ultra-violet radiation.
That our agencies, boards commissions and divisions should consider including the provision of shade, it can be natural or constructed, in their outdoor facilities especially where children are in attendance. The shade policy helps bring importance to creating opportunities for shaded seating areas, shaded walking areas, and giving that balance of spaces that the public needs in order
to enjoy and fully be comfortable and use the spaces that we’re providing for them. In 2002, Children’s Services was invited to the Public Health table when they decided it was important to put together a
Shade Policy Committee. And over the years, the information and education brought forward because of that committee, has actually introduced a lot of new changes in Children’s Services’ attitude and education when it comes to sun and our most vulnerable population
that we care for. Sitting at the Shade Policy council table is really important for us, because we’re working on urban forest issues – we’re incredibly excited about the connections between health and the urban forest and shade can provide UV radiation protection and trees are a big component of that.
We also work with community groups and volunteers to provide stewardship for trees in public spaces. So in parks, where shade is so important, providing stewardship and ongoing care for those trees so they actually grow to maturity and provide the shade that we need. That’s part of the roll that we play as well. The quality of public realm is really important
again to the kind of city we want to create, and design is essential to this. Shade plays a roll in terms of making
people want to walk along a street or sit in a public square or be in a park,
if it’s a really hot day and with the rising climate – and increasing temperatures – and with the
concerns over urban heat island effect in the city, we all know that we need to cool our
city down, and shade is integral to doing this. There are two kinds of shade, I guess, to be very simple, there’s natural shade and constructed shade. And so any successful shade project involves a combination of natural shade,
mostly trees, and constructed shade, structures that are either permanent
or temporary that are somehow located so that they can prevent UV rays from reaching children at play, people sitting on park benches or just enjoying recreation outdoors. Urban forestry promotes the planting of large-growing native trees, wherever possible. Larger trees, often
with denser canopies will provide shade. This site was one of the sites that we looked at in our 2002, about 13 years ago, Designing For Shade forum. As a pilot project in 2005, we conducted a shade audit of two city parks, Christie Pitts and Charles G. Williams,
and the purpose of that project was to outline a methodology for a simple shade audit at minimal cost. So Nathan Phillips Square is Toronto’s most important urban public space, it’s an iconic modern space that really represents Toronto’s birth into the modern age. It’s visited by millions of people a year, and it really hosts such a great diversity of events. It was actually in Fall of 2006, the City
issued an International Design Competition. Our winning competition scheme really set out to transform Nathan Phillips Square into a much greener space – that was one primary objective.
Another was to return it to some of the design principles that Viljo Revell, the Finnish architect
who designed City Hall, had in mind. And that was the creation of really an
urban theatre, a space of infinite public potential. One of the key projects that we had a big role in was the development of the Shade Guidelines. We felt, and the Shade Policy Committee felt that this would be a great document to have in place, that a range of users would be able to use
in understanding the importance of shade, the health risks around ultra-violet radiation, and begin to get a sense of how we could begin to implement shade in the City facilities and City spaces. So it would be a good guidebook to help people
that are working on projects. Not all trees provide equal shade.
So we give information about the types of trees that would provide more shade. We give some tips on what to look for,
so the location, the soil type, the moisture levels and looking at the areas where they need
to focus on providing shade to make sure that the placement of the trees will actually optimize shade provision. One of the key parts of the Shade Guidelines
was to actually put in place guidelines, design guidelines, around a number of types
of facilities and spaces in the City of Toronto. And these ranged from park spaces, trails,
wading pools, swimming pools, playgrounds – especially those kinds of areas where
youth and young children were active because we knew we had to place priority on protecting them. As well, we included streetscapes and urban squares,
even things like parking lots, so that all the City of Toronto divisions
and agencies that had responsibility for those types of spaces could have a guidebook to help them in their planning and design of these, improving these facilities. The existence of the Shade Policy Guideline, that was created through the Policy Committee, has helped Evergreen to expand their efforts to improve and increase shade on school grounds across Canada. So, that work is incredibly important because we’re finding that, in some of our anecdotal research, that children are more active when the school grounds are shaded and cooler. And what that
has stimulated is this effort, in each of the cities across Canada where our Associates are,
it’s stimulated a conversation with municipalities and is actually creating a groundswell of
support in those cities to create their own policies. So we had a staff team of landscape architects, planners and construction coordinators. We teamed up with Victor Ford and Associates, which is a private landscape firm, and we took the Shade Guidelines and applied them at a number of Parks, Forestry and Recreation sites. So we looked at playgrounds, swimming pools, splash pads and wading pools. We had a design charrette, where we got
everyone together and really went through a planning exercise to figure out what would be the types of shade that would be appropriate at each different types of sites, and in order to incorporate that shade, what were the design principles that you needed
and the specifications for those specific products. So we looked at natural shade, using
shade sails, constructed picnic shelters, retractable awnings, pergolas, as well as a
number of different other methods of shade provision. And we really designed a Shade Provision
Design Standard for Parks, Forestry and Recreation. The idea is that we want to make planning for
shade easy for people to do, and fun and take a lot of the background research out of it so that implementation can happen a lot quicker. What we’re learning, and the World Health Organization is advocating, the development of these inclusive, holistic approaches towards disease prevention. As a long time City employee, we often get stuck in the silos of our own divisions, and this has really been about blending and cross-pollinating ideas and complimentary streams of research. So being able to be excited and informed by what’s going on by Healthy Public Policy as far as their Healthy By Design research initiatives, their heat vulnerability and of course the shade work, and how that has in turn informed how urban
forestry has put that health messaging into their strategic forest management plan,
into their active operational planting plans, looking at heat vulnerability data, and of course the Shade Supplement and the Shade Guidelines. We have more to do, we have to learn about better ways to get our message across, because it’s so important, because so much
of skin cancer is preventable. We have to do, I think, a better job of educating the public of the importance of the shade, the importance of having those
kinds of streets that we all want to be on, because we all benefit – real-estate values go up, the ecological benefits of having a mature shade tree. People when they’re very hot and looking for a refuge, they don’t want to go to cooling centres provided, they would much prefer to be in shady parkland. I think what’s significant about the shade
policy and the way that it played into the Nathan Phillips Square project is that from the outset it was so integrated into the City’s vision for the square, and into the design competition brief
– so that it wasn’t an overlay or an afterthought. Everybody needs a shade policy
– at an individual level and at a community level and at a worker level, because the sun in
Toronto is very strong over the summer months. I was actually excited to be involved in such
a project because as a dermatologist we see end result, we don’t see the prevention aspects that much. Having a diverse group of individuals sitting
on that Shade Policy Committee, it’s enabled all of us, I think, to move forward in ways we could never have done individually. It’s been a pleasure to work with such
an incredibly dedicated Committee. I think that was one of the great strengths
of the Shade Policy Committee, it was to bring these multiple viewpoints and strengths experiences to the committee and
help create a strong policy and the guidelines now begin to influence the
implementation of projects across the city. Well, the shade policy, I mean it’s a robust set of principles. I think it can easily be adapted and
adopted by other municipalities who are perhaps not as far advanced in their planning tools
or their ambitions for urban transformation. We’re the largest city in Canada, and the first
city in Canada to have a comprehensive policy that talks about shade, so we’re being
watched – and we’re also being consulted, and we’re also looking to others for their experience too. The support from Toronto Public Health and Toronto Board of Health has been simply invaluable in allowing us to achieve a Shade Policy
and Guidelines for the City of Toronto.

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