Green Development Standards

What are Green Development Standards (GDS)?

  • Standards created by municipalities to encourage environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable design.
  • GDS help municipalities alleviate pressures from population growth and urbanization by using infrastructure and resources efficiently, advancing uptake to sustainability metrics, reducing energy use and GHG emissions and advancing sustainability metrics deemed to be a priority by the municipality.
  • GDS generally apply to new private and municipally-owned buildings and developments.

By using GDS, municipalities can create healthier, better-designed communities that have better integrated greenspace, pedestrian and transit networks, and that offer a variety of housing, transportation, human services, and employment options.

Top Level Questions:

1. What are you trying to achieve with this action?

  • Increase the uptake of sustainability metrics deemed a priority within new developments: (e.g., energy efficiency, active transportation, permeable surfaces, bird friendly design, green space, active transportation, access to amenities, etc.)
  • Increase resilience: Buildings that include efficiency and resilience measures improve comfort and resilience to extreme weather events (e.g., helps residents shelter in place)
  • Create diverse, complete communities: GDS aim to meet the needs of seniors and people with disabilities and improve safety for vulnerable transportation users
  • Support local economic opportunities: GDS can help expand the green economy locally and regionally and advance market capability to advance sustainability outcomes
  • Improve health and wellness for residents: Neighbourhoods with a compact, walkable form and integrated green spaces can improve physical and mental health by reducing air pollution
  • Cost savings: Green buildings have lower operating costs compared to traditional buildings, helping to reduce energy poverty; lower energy demands will help achieve short and long-term fiscal sustainability and GHG reduction targets, lower risk to energy and carbon costs into the future, and reduce retrofit costs

2. Who has traditionally participated in/benefited from this action?

  • Predominantly demographics who can afford to purchase properties
  • Developers advancing energy efficiency within their developments

3. What groups are most in need of this action? Why?

  • Purchasers of new buildings to avoid high energy costs and future retrofit costs
  • Vulnerable communities, particularly those experiencing energy poverty and those living in high climate risk areas
  • Social and affordable housing organizations

4. What has prevented these groups from participating in the past?

  • Those who lack the funds to purchase properties
  • Up-front capital costs if uptake to GDS metrics causes housing construction costs to increase; it is important to consider not only up-front capital costs but longer term operational costs as well
  • Lack of understanding about the benefits of GDS - within the general public and among the local development/building community
  • Municipal Councils prioritizing the voice of developers

5. What design can address barriers from those most in need of action or to increase participation? Barriers can be physical or perceived (perceptual/psychological)

  • Green loans that can reduce any potential up-front capital increases​
  • Changing mortgage lending rules to account for lower operational costs
  • Incentives to build affordable green housing: leveraging municipal funding or funding from other levels of government
  • Performance-based contracts, where costs of improvements/energy efficiency upgrades are paid for by the energy savings
  • Possible use of the Community Improvement Plan authorities
  • Build smaller higher-performance homes outside of areas targeted for densification, eliminating reliance on for-profit building developers

6a. Can you identify any negative impacts that this action may cause?

  • Up-front capital costs of housing may increase, impacting housing affordability re: purchase costs and mortgage eligibility/risk for purchasers at the edge of moving into a high-risk mortgage
  • There is a limited ability for this policy to address housing affordability for those priced out of the housing market
    • GDS does not cause housing affordability; housing affordability is a bigger problem - Inclusionary Zoning is a much more effective municipal tool for addressing housing affordability
    • It is important to consider up-front capital costs in particular for purchasers close to their mortgage eligibility maximum; this can impact their mortgage eligibility because mortgage lenders do not take lower operational costs into consideration in mortgage eligibility
    • Those purchasers are also more likely to be first-time purchasers over people who already own property
    • Also consider that housing affordability traditionally has only considered the 'first costs' of home ownership; the total lifecycle cost of ownership reflects the real affordability to the people living in the home

6b. Are there any measures that can help to proactively prevent that harm?

  • Mortgage lenders should consider lower operational costs for purchasers of more efficient homes
  • Up-front capital cost increases may be addressed via green loans, LICs, etc. which may increase the uptake of higher tiers of the GDS
  • Municipalities can play a bridge role with developers at the neighbourhood scale (not only at the building level) to reduce up-front capital costs and improve the business case for lower carbon developments
  • Include opportunities for feedback from local builders and trades (including colleges) to ensure that the capacity requirements can be matched

7. Who hasn't yet been engaged that would be good to engage? Why would they be good to engage? What may limit their engagement interest/ability?

  • Prioritize equity-seeking communities through continual consultation and engagement, including low-income residents, BIPOC communities, Indigenous nations, disabled folks, etc.
    • Ask: Who's being included in the consultation process? What consultation formats are being used? How might equity-seeking groups want to engage in the GDS process? if there value in their engagement from their perspective?
    • Recognize that equity-seeking groups may require other forms of engagement outside of formal government consultation

Do you have additional suggestions for climate and equity synergies related to Green Development Standards? Add them here.