Municipality: Burlington Implementation: 2010-06-03
Policy Name: Corporate Sustainable Building Policy Contact: Lynn Robichaud
Department: Corporate Strategic Initiatives Title: Sr. Sustainability Coordinator
Community profile:

The City of Burlington is situated on the western shore of Lake Ontario, adjacent to the City of Hamilton and approximately 70 km west of the City of Toronto. Burlington is located in the urbanized area of Southern Ontario that extends from the cities of Niagara Falls to Oshawa, known as the “Greater Golden Horseshoe,” and which forms the economic core of Ontario.
Burlington’s population is approximately 175,000.  Geographically it comprises of 177.4 sq. km of land with distinct urban and rural areas. The urban area is generally defined as the area south of Dundas Street (Hwy. 5) and Highway 407, with the rural area located to the north.  Much of the rural area is protected by the Greenbelt and Niagara Escarpment plans.
Burlington's location is distinguished by its accessibility to major urban centres such as Toronto and Hamilton, its proximity to the United States and its natural features including the Lake Ontario and Burlington Bay waterfronts, the Niagara Escarpment and Bronte Creek. The combination of an economically strategic location and environmental and aesthetic factors have contributed to Burlington's desirability as a place to live and as a location for business.
The existing City structure is a typical suburban community. Burlington is composed mainly of residential neighbourhoods containing detached dwellings, separated from employment and shopping areas, and designed primarily around a transportation system based on automobile travel.   However, as the city approaches greenfield buildout, particularly for residential neighbourhoods, more emphasis is on intensification and live/work, mixed-use development to support sustainable transportation measures, including the city’s transit system and active transportation initiatives.

Short Description:

A standard for all new municipal buildings greater than 500 m2 (5,400 ft2), with a target of meeting the silver certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) green building rating system, with some exceptions noted below.


The purpose of the City of Burlington’s corporate sustainable building policy is to demonstrate commitment to environmental, social and economic improvements and to provide leadership and guidance in the application and development of sustainable building practices.  This policy is intended to:

  • Align the planning and development of new and renovated municipal buildings with commitments made in the City of Burlington strategic plan, Future Focus Seven, the Official Plan, and the corporate energy policy to address sustainability, energy management and conservation, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Achieve long-term cost savings through reduced operating costs through improved energy and water efficiency and stormwater management.
  • Enhance indoor and outdoor environments, and promote a healthy and productive workplace for all city employees and visitors.
  • Reduce demolition, construction, renovation and operational waste being sent to landfill by encouraging material reuse and recycling.
  • Encourage sustainable site selection and sustainable transportation modes, such as transit, walking and cycling, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
  • Demonstrate community leadership by committing to sustainable design and development of municipal facilities.

Step by Step Process:

In response to the council direction, staff completed a background literature review of green building certification programs, including the benefits and challenges, consulted the Municipal LEED Toolkit, completed a review of existing municipal green or sustainable building policies, worked with the city’s project management staff responsible for new and major building retrofit projects, as well as consulted with the Sustainable Development Committee, a volunteer citizen’s advisory committee to Council.

Primary Drivers:

On June 9th, 2008, Council approved the following staff direction:
THAT the General Manager of Development & Infrastructure and the Director of Planning be directed to report back to the Community Development Committee with an evaluation of the application of energy conservation and green building features following Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) type standards for all new City of Burlington facilities and major renovations as well as new commercial and multi-unit residential development in the City.
Council also approved the following in the Strategic Plan – Future Focus Seven (2007-2010) - Develop a corporate green building standard such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for retrofit and new facilities.

Secondary Drivers:

In 1990 the City of Burlington declared itself a Sustainable Development Community and adopted the principles and objectives of sustainable development in 1994.  One of the principles includes:  Support responsible development that promotes efficiency and enhances the quality of life.  A corresponding objective includes:  Actively promote sustainable development – Burlington should be an advocate for changes at the senior levels of government, as well as in the City, in order to evolve towards sustainability.


Mayor Goldring has been a champion of sustainability initiatives since his election to Council in 2006.  The Sustainable Development Committee has also been a strong advocate for green building measures in city facilities as well as private sector developments.


Concern was raised about the cost of building to LEED standards and the certification process.  – Staff responded that the cost of implementing LEED seemed to be decreasing as the industry became more familiar with the standards.  It was also recommended that an 8% premium be built into project budgets to ensure sufficient funding.

Another issue was the desire to shadow LEED requirements instead of requiring the certification process.  – Staff responded that without the certification, what assurance would we have that the contractor was actually implementing the green building measures required to achieve certification.


Staff highlighted the benefits of implementing a corporate sustainable building policy:

  • Reduced Demand on Municipal Infrastructure for Services, Transportation and Energy
  • Lower Operating Costs
  • Reduced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
  • Improved Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Future Proofing Against Energy and Water Shortages, and Volatile Pricing 
  • Local Economic Development of the Growing Green Building Industry


The City has completed four buildings under LEED and is in the process to certify the projects, including:

Transit Operations Centre – major expansion - Silver
Appleby Ice Centre – major expansion - Certified
Burlington Performing Arts Centre – new building - Certified
Fire Station #8 – new building - Silver

Lessons Learned:

  • Council is always more supportive when staff can show that other municipalities have already implemented a similar program. 
  • Obtaining support from the sustainable development committee also helps to gain council support.

Applicability Across Ontario:

Very applicable – Burlington is a mid-sized community with similar type communities throughout Ontario.

Similar Tools Used by Other Municipalities:

See link to staff report and policy below – Appendix A of the report includes a table listing similar municipal green building policies.

Report & policy -


Further Information: