Why does Ottawa need the High Performance Development Standard?

    The High Performance Development Standard was introduced as part of the new Official Plan to realize the objectives of sustainable and resilient design. It is also one of the 20 priority projects identified in the Energy Evolution Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emission in Ottawa to zero by 2050.

    Buildings are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ottawa. Designing new buildings to be energy efficient from the outset will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save on costly retrofits in the future. The High Performance Development Standard will also help build resiliency to our changing climate through tree canopy, ecology and urban heat island mitigation strategies.

    Collectively, the metrics aim to advance the climate change mitigation and adaption priorities of the Climate Change Master Plan, Energy Evolution and the Climate Resiliency Strategy as well as the City’s objectives related to public health, ecology and accessibility.

    Many of the requirements in the High Performance Development Standard are existing, whether part of an existing guideline, by-law or other document. The High Performance Development Standard will allow City staff to prioritize and package all the requirements that support sustainable and resilient design together in one place. It will also assist in reviewing and maintaining the requirements, as well as in tracking and reporting on sustainability objectives.

    What is a tiered standard?

    The High Performance Development Standard has been developed as a tiered standard. Tier 1, the lowest tier, contains the mandatory requirements. Tier 2 and higher requirements are voluntary, while setting the direction for increasing requirements to be made over time. A tiered standard is helpful to inform and enable industry to prepare and plan for future mandatory requirements.

    Tier 1 will be mandatory for all projects requiring either a site plan or plan of subdivision application.

    Tier 2 or higher will be optional. The metrics of Tier 2 serve several purposes:

    • Incentives to advance the adoption of Tier 2 and higher performance is under development.
    • Tier 2 and 3 will bring awareness and understanding of incremental increases in requirements. Overtime, the minimum performance will move up such that Tier 2 will become mandatory. The image below helps to demonstrate the incremental aspect of a tiered standard.
    • Tier 2 and 3 metrics will also serve to help evaluate projects for City recognition.

    At this time, Tier 3 is only referenced in building energy emission targets, which aligns with the 2030 emission reduction targets proposed in Energy Evolution.

    How is a standard different from a guideline?

    A standard is a set of specific measures to which a proponent must implement to the fullest extent.

    • Whereas a guideline is suggestive and general in nature, a standard is prescriptive and mandatory.
    • Whereas the Zoning By-law sets out a separate process to review nonconformity through the Committee of Adjustment, relief from a standard is subject to the review and approval by the Department based on justification provided by the applicant through the development approval process.

    When will the standard be fully implemented?

    The City of Ottawa is awaiting further legislative update from the Provincial government which may have implications for the HPDS. Staff will bring a updated implementation recommendation by Q1 2024.

    What about ongoing applications?

    We encourage projects, including those that have already been through pre-consultation or submitted an application, to comply with the High Performance Development Standard. The HPDS will not apply to projects that have been through pre-consultation where the HPDS was not introduced OR are submitting an application prior to new implementation timeline being approved by Council.

    What is the timing on incentives for Tier 2 projects?

    There are currently no financial or process related incentives available to be implemented.  Staff have been directed to investigate incentive options and report back to Council in 2024.

    Are deviations from the mandatory metrics permitted?

    The expectation is for projects to demonstrate full compliance with the HPDS metrics. Where full compliance cannot be achieved, documentation will be required that provides sufficient justification why a deviation from the standard is necessary. Permission to deviate from the HPDS shall be subject to the review and approval of the GM, Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development Department.  Example: A project has several separate roof spaces and is treating most of podium roof area which nearly meets the sustainable roofing requirement of the standard but to become in full compliance would have to treat the entire other roof area, resulting in significant cost.

    Will the City provide training to the community on the HPDS?

    Yes. Timing is to be determined. Until that time, specific questions should be directed to: hpds@ottawa.ca.

    Do other municipalities have these standards?

    The High Performance Development Standard is also referred to as a Green Development Standard by other municipalities and agencies in Ontario. These types of standards have been adopted by many municipalities across Ontario and have been found to be an effective tool in transforming the industry and building capacity to advance the sustainability and resiliency of new buildings. In development of the High Performance Development Standard staff have consulted with colleagues in other municipalities and tried to learn from and align with their best practices.

    The table below provides a summary of similar standards across Ontario. In addition, the Clean Air Partnership funded through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities worked with eight municipalities across Ontario, including Ottawa, to develop a Green Standards Toolkit. This toolkit is a useful reference if you would like to learn more about Green Standards in general.



    Adoption year


    Toronto Green Standard


    Mississauga, Vaughan, Brampton, Richmond Hill

    Sustainability Performance Metrics



    Whitby Green Standard


    Halton Hills

    Green Development Standards


    East Gwillimbury

    Thinking Green! Development Standards



    Resilient House Standard

    Not yet adopted

    What else is the City doing to apply sustainability requirements to buildings and new developments?

    The High Performance Development Standard is the City’s tool to advance sustainable resilient design as part of planning applications. There are a number of other tools the City has in place or under development that advance sustainable and resilient design for buildings that are out of scope or authority of the standard.

    Building Types Outside of the High Performance Development Standard Scope

    Existing Buildings

    Earlier this year the City of Ottawa launched Better Homes Ottawa. This program is a one stop site for Ottawa residents to help make their homes more energy efficient and climate friendly. It includes financing and advice to help residents get started.

    The City of Ottawa is also working on the launch of the Better Buildings Ottawa Program. This program will aim to support commercial, industrial, institutional, as well as multi-unit residential buildings in reducing their energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The Program will seek to share industry learnings, undertake energy benchmarking, and provide financing strategies that help support building owners to realize deep energy retrofits.

    Municipal Buildings

    The City of Ottawa has an existing Green Building Policy and an internal building energy efficiency department working to help make municipal buildings more efficient. The City has set ambitious climate mitigation targets and is undergoing a risks and vulnerabilities assessment to respond to future climate conditions. In relation to these the following projects are in the works to improve municipal buildings.

    • Green Building Policy update
    • Municipal Building Retrofit Program

    Low rise infill

    Small low rise infill building projects largely fall outside of the planning requirements the City has in place. These building types currently make up a relatively small portion of development in Ottawa although this may increase over time as a result of the New Official Plan’s growth targets. These building types in general are more energy efficient and are helping to increase density around established public transit networks which have positive implications to the City’s sustainability targets. These development types are subject to a number of existing policies aimed at managing the environmental impacts resulting from their development including the Tree Bylaw and zoning. As part of the High Performance Development Standard, incentive options will be reviewed which may play a role in further advancing sustainability of these building types.

    Other Policy Areas

    There are a number of other regulatory policies that address related and connected areas. Stormwater programs and zoning have been described in more detail below. More information can be found on the provinces website on land-use planning regulations and building regulation.


    Rain Ready Ottawa is a pilot program that encourages and supports residents to take action on their property to reduce harmful impacts of rainwater runoff.

    Stormwater Management Retrofit Plans for Pinecrest/Westboro (ACS2011-ICS-PGM-0114) and Eastern Subwatersheds (ACS2019-PIE-IS-0002) contain a combination of measures designed to minimize the negative impact of uncontrolled runoff.

    Two engineered rain garden sites have been constructed within the road right-of-way in Ottawa, one on Sunnyside Avenue in Old Ottawa South and one on Stewart Street in Sandy Hill.

    Two additional rain gardens have been installed at the Manordale-Woodvale Community Building and the Cornerstone Residence in the Pinecrest Creek watershed.

    The Site Alteration By-law protects agricultural resources and natural heritage features from negative impacts caused by site alteration within Ottawa and prevents drainage issues and public nuisances resulting from site alteration activities.


    The High Performance Development Standard References Zoning in a number of places where zoning is the more appropriate tool to advance objectives than the standard. The zoning by-law controls the use of land. It implements the objectives and policies of the official plan by regulating and controlling specific land uses (and as such, must conform with the plan). A zoning by-law achieves this by stating exactly:

    • what land uses may be permitted (for example, residential or commercial)
    • where buildings and other structures can be located
    • which types of buildings are permitted (for example, detached houses, semi-detached houses, duplexes, apartment buildings, office buildings, etc.) and how they may be used
    • lot sizes and dimensions, parking requirements, building heights and densities, and setbacks from a street or lot boundary

    The Zoning by-law will be undergoing a consistency update to align with the new official plan. Stay tuned to City communications for more information coming on this update.