Design Options for Tree Planting in Hard Surfaces illustrate how hard surface environments can be designed to achieve the higher soil volumes necessary for tree growth and survivability, and to facilitate utility subsurface access and maintenance activities.

Many of the Design Options include the installation of soil cells. The City is conducting a soil cell evaluation that will inform the development of a city standard soil cell specification. Until this is available, general specification 32 88 88 Soil Cells can be used to help identify performance criteria that should be incorporated when choosing a soil cell product for installation in the right-of-way.

This is a suite of drawings for sidewalks with integrated tree planting.

The Design Options cover the majority of sidewalk situations and can be combined and adapted, much like a kit of parts. For a sidewalk with cast-in-place or poured panels, refer to the T-CIP series. For a sidewalk with pre-cast concrete panels, refer to the T-PCP series.

Consultants should identify and refine the Options that best suit their project in order to submit site-specific drawings. Installing open, large tree planting areas are a best practice because this provides the best growing conditions for trees in sidewalks.

Each series is organised by three (3) different tree planting area conditions:

  • Raised, open tree pit surrounded by concrete/stone/metal surround
  • At grade, open tree pit surrounded by a low metal fence
  • At grade, covered tree pit using a grate

Each tree planting area condition is described by various drawings including: a key plan, an assembly plan, a soil cell layout plan, and various sections.

The Design Options note details and specifications that are not included here. This is because the City is in the process of developing these as standards. Once complete, they will be available online. In the interim, please contact the City Planner assigned to your development application for additional information. For Capital Projects, please contact the Engineering and Construction Services’ Project Manager.

T-CIP Series

T-CIP 1.0

T-CIP 2.0

T-CIP 3.0

T-CIP 4.0

T-CIP 5.0

T-CIP 6.0

T-PCP Series

T-PCP 1.0

T-PCP 2.0

T-PCP 3.0

T-PCP 4.0

T-PCP 5.0

T-PCP 6.0

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The City of Toronto has a generic specification 32-88-88 for soil cells that identifies performance criteria that should be considered and satisfied when choosing a soil cell product for installation in the right-of-way. Special attention should be paid to project-specific utility concerns, their integration including utility access and repair, the feasibility of full restoration in relation to traffic loads and the continuity of the soil trench system. The rationale for each criteria and suggested modification based on experience to date can be found in the Key Performance Criteria for Soil Cells .

Transportation Services is organizing a Soil Cell Evaluation in spring 2020, in which several soil cell products will be tested for subsurface access and restoration in an emergency work scenario.  The evaluation results will inform the development of a revised Soil Cell Specification, intended to be adopted by the City as a standard.


As-builts, including detailed description and quantification of the performance objectives of the soil cells within a defined project as defined in Key Performance Criteria for soil cells, criteria 3 must be provided by the Contractor to the City Project Manager, upon construction completion.

Private/Public Property Delineation

Where soil cells are proposed on both private and public property, it is essential that a soil cell unit including any drainage or aeration piping not straddle the property line to enable future repairs/excavation on either side without impacting the adjacent property.