> Home > City Services > Planning > Environmental Planning > Green Development

Green Development

Every other species on this planet produces no “waste”, instead, outputs from one organism become resources for another, creating a 'virtuous cycle' and healthy ecosystems. Can human developments also function this way?

“Green Development” is a broad concept that addresses this question, with urban development approaches and practices that strive to minimize negative impacts, or ideally have a net positive impact, on the environment and nearby ecosystems. 
Green Development is a rapidly growing field that combines ecological principles with advanced technology, often including social and economic benefits as well.

Burnaby's Environmental Sustainability Strategy and supporting Community Energy and Emission Plan, approved by Council in 2016, includes several goals to guide development in the City to eventually have a positive impact on the environment, particularly the Live, Build and Move sections of these plans.  They include strategies for reducing energy, resource use and carbon emissions, while improving health for people and ecosystems.

The green development “toolbox” includes: 

  • Planning and land use development regulations, policies and practices that aim to create "complete communities" that are vibrant and encourage walking, cycling and transit use; 
  • Green building certification and rating systems such as LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) that quantify energy efficiency and other green design goals;
  • Policies and bylaws requiring energy efficiency standards and encouraging green design;
  • Technologies and systems that capture and re-use or re-purpose “waste” products from materials (e.g. construction waste) and energy (waste heat) and re-use them as resources; and
  • Engineered “ecosystems” such as constructed wetlands, green walls, green roofs and rain gardens / bioswales, that perform specific functions such as capture and cleanse stormwater runoff.

Green building and landscape initiatives for public and private developments are frequently considered and advanced by the City through community plan development, bylaw amendments, comprehensive site plans and specific development and building projects. Many developments have incorporated LEED™ standards, high energy efficiency and other significant environmental considerations to help set the framework for broader application of Green Development initiatives in the City.



UniverCity is Burnaby’s flagship sustainable mixed-use community, located adjacent to Simon Fraser University on the top of Burnaby Mountain. Planning began with the SFU Official Community Plan in 1996, coupled with a land transfer of 320 hectares of forest land from SFU to the City that were incorporated in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. SFU Community Trust, representing the university and associated stakeholders, implements development in the community in accordance with the adopted Community Plan and approval process. Currently approximately 3,000 residents live at UniverCity; SFU staff, faculty and students make up about 41% of this population. At full build-out, the population of this new urban community will reach approximately 10,000. The community currently includes a mix of residential developments and forms, offices, an elementary school, a child care centre, a grocery store and pharmacy, various businesses and offices, and a number of cafes and restaurants. 

UniverCity exemplifies many sustainable urban planning policies, technologies and practices, including:

  • Innovative rainwater management practices and aggressive requirements for on-site infiltration and retention, to protect downstream watercourses, as set out in the 2002 Stormwater Management Plan. Monitoring and implementation of the plan is carried out with a multi-stakeholder Adaptive Management Committee, chaired by the City.
  • Requirements for sustainable building performance, water conservation and other green building practices. The Phase 3 Zoning Bylaw for the development requires at least 30% greater energy efficiency compared to the Building Code, and offers a density bonus for achieving 45% energy efficiency.
  • Through a partnership with Translink, SFU Community Trust and VanCity, a reduced-cost community transit pass was available to residents between 2002 and 2011, to encourage increased transit ridership. Currently, 36% of UniverCity residents use transit for commuting which is the highest percentage of transit use in the City.
  • A Neighbourhood Energy Utility is currently being developed, to serve the campus and UniverCity, using a  highly efficient and virtually non-polluting biomass gasification process that would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions associated with heating and cooling.
  • The University Highlands Elementary School was built to LEED™ Gold standards, and includes outdoor teaching areas and a curriculum strongly focused on the environment and sustainability.
  • A child care facility aims to be one of the first projects in Canada to achieve Living Building certification, an advanced green building rating that exceeds LEED™ standards.
  • Car sharing is available to residents through a car co-operative.

UniverCity has won many awards for its sustainable innovations:

  • 2005 - BC Hydro Power Smart Excellence Award
  • 2005 - Award of Excellence for the most sustainable development by the Urban Development Institute
  • 2005 - Project of the Year Award from the Association of University Real Estate Officials
  • 2007 - City of Burnaby Environment Award for Planning and Development
  • 2008 - The American Planning Association National Planning Excellence Award for innovation in green community planning.
  • 2011 - The Canadian Institute of Planners, Planning Award of Excellence in the Neighbourhood Planning category. 


Green Development initiatives are being implemented throughout the City in private and public projects to incorporate green roofs, energy efficiency, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, rainwater amenity features, street trees and vibrant streetscapes to encourage a healthy live-work community. Outstanding examples include:

  • City of Burnaby’s new public buildings such as the Tommy Douglas library and the Edmonds Aquatic and Community Centre, have been developed to LEED™ and/or equivalent green building standards.
  • The City allows for density bonuses in Town Centres through the Community Benefit Bonus Policy, in exchange for community amenities, affordable housing and environmental improvements. This program has resulted in riparian area enhancements and contributions to parkland throughout the City. 
  • The new City Public Works Yard has been designed in accordance with LEEDTM principles with an aim to achieve a Gold rating. The facility design includes provision for a green roof, innovative stormwater management and restoration and enhancement of adjacent streamside areas.
  • Through collaboration with the development community, green roofs (eco-roofs) are frequently included in new development, as they improve building energy efficiency, reduce rainwater runoff, provide scenic views from above, and contribute habitat. A study carried out in 2002 inventoried 49 green roofs in Burnaby, placing the city among the top two municipalities in the region in overall number of green roofs. Over the past five years about a dozen new green roofs have been constructed on City and private or institutional buildings. ·        
  • Burnaby has partnered with BCIT to investigate opportunities and benefits of green roofs; the program included acquiring $29,000 for monitoring equipment to include the green roof on the Electronic Arts building in the Regional Infrastructure Network.
  • In 2007, the “Green”, an aptly-named residential development in the Edmonds Town Centre, was completed under the voluntary Built Green certification program.  The 325-unit townhouse development incorporates many of the City’s green building guidelines that were initiated at UniverCity, such as water and energy efficiency measures and a car-sharing program.
  • Burnaby Mountain Secondary School, constructed in 2000, uses an efficient geothermal heating/cooling system.

Other Resources