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Urban Design Guidelines for Greenfield Neighbourhoods

Urban Design Guidelines for Greenfield Neighbourhoods

Urban Design Guidelines for Greenfield Neighbourhoods [PDF 3.83 MB]


A “greenfield neighbourhood” in the context of these design guidelines refers to a large area of land within the Urban Area that has not been developed previously, or that has the potential to be extensively redeveloped. Generally planned from the outset as a separate entity to create many lots fronting onto one or more public roads, it could be a single subdivision with fewer than 50 residential dwellings within an existing urban neighbourhood, or it could be several neighbourhoods with over 1,000 dwellings that form part of a larger area of new development.

Purpose and Application

These design guidelines illustrate the City’s expectations during the development review process for greenfield neighbourhoods within the Urban Area of the City of Ottawa. They are focused on providing guidance for neighbourhood design during the subdivision review and zoning processes. While they do not address the details of individual properties, such as commercial plazas or parks, they do provide guidance regarding the relationship between adjacent sites and between a site and the public street.

These guidelines will work with existing planning and urban design guidelines to:

  1. Provide direction to the development review process for areas without an approved secondary plan or community design plan
  2. Complement any design considerations in approved community design plans or secondary plans
  3. Assist the preparation of future community design plans or secondary plans, and the update of such documents as the Official Plan and zoning by-laws

These guidelines are also informative for “Brownfield” projects that may have a neighbourhood component.

These guidelines are general in nature and provide guidance on issues that could influence all neighbourhoods in the Urban Area. They do not cover specific issues that might apply to particular sites.

Official Plan Direction

The Official Plan includes as one of its Guiding Principles, the creation of “A City of Distinct, Liveable Communities”. Such communities are comprised of neighbourhoods that are compact, inclusive, well designed, connected, environmentally sensitive, transit-supportive, and sustainable.

Section 2.5.1 of the Official Plan contains policies relating to compatibility and community design. It includes Design Objectives and Principles aimed at influencing the built environment of the city as it matures and evolves. Annex 3, the Design Framework, expands on the Design Objectives and Principles. The Official Plan identifies various tools to implement these Design Objectives and Principles. One tool is the preparation of urban design guidelines, such as these guidelines for Greenfield Neighbourhoods.

The intent of these guidelines is not to duplicate the Official Plan policies and Annex 3 the Design Framework, but complement them and provide specific advice on a range of issues and topics. The Official Plan should be consulted for complete references.


The objectives of the Urban Design Guidelines for Greenfield Neighbourhoods are:

  • To protect and integrate the site’s inherent environmental, topographic, and cultural features
  • To create a comfortable pedestrian and cycling environment and attractive streetscapes
  • To ensure compatibility and links between different land uses in the neighbourhood, and with adjacent neighbourhoods
  • To encourage transit-oriented development
  • To establish a system of parks and greenspaces that are plentiful, accessible and connected to each other

Context and Challenges

Essentially there are two types of Greenfield Neighbourhoods within the City of Ottawa, each with their own unique challenges. These are:

  1. Greenfield neighbourhoods located in designated Urban Areas beyond the Greenbelt. These large, usually undeveloped, areas of land offer significant opportunity for innovative practices to achieve the Official Plan’s direction for liveable communities, but they face issues of scale, phasing, compatibility as well as sensitivity to environmental carrying capacity, and natural and cultural features.
  2. Greenfield neighbourhoods located among existing neighbourhoods, within the Greenbelt. These sites are generally smaller in size than those beyond the Greenbelt but offer the same opportunity for meeting the Official Plan’s objectives. However, given they are typically located in the midst of existing neighbourhoods, issues of connections, transition and compatibility are often at the forefront.

Design Guidelines

The Urban Design Guidelines for Greenfield Neighbourhoods provide guidance when:

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Figure Locations

Figure 1a: Ottawa Figure 37a: Calgary
Figure 2a: Ottawa Figure 37b: Montreal
Figure 3a: Ottawa (source: Fotenn Consultants Inc) Figure 38a: Oakville
Figure 3b: Ottawa Figure 38b: Ottawa
Figure 4a: Ottawa Figure 39a: Ottawa
Figure 4b: Wilmington, North Carolina (source: Figure 39b: Markham
Figure 5a: Ottawa Figure 40a: Ottawa
Figure 5b: Ottawa Figure 40b: Markham
Figure 6a: Ottawa (Kanata) Figure 41a: Ottawa
Figure 6b: Renfrew (source: Fotenn Consultants Inc.) Figure 41b: Ottawa
Figure 7b: Ottawa Figure 42a: Ottawa
Figure 8a: Ottawa Figure 42b: Montreal
Figure 9b: Baltimore, Maryland Figure 43a: Ottawa
Figure 10b: Orlando, Florida (source: Figure 43b: Ottawa
Figure 11b: Oakville Figure 44a: Ottawa
Figure 12b: Ottawa Figure 44b: Ottawa
Figure 13b: Ottawa Figure 45a: Ottawa
Figure 14b: Source: Fotenn Consultants Inc. Figure 45b: Ottawa
Figure 15b: Montreal Figure 46a: Oakville
Figure 16b: Ottawa Figure 47a: Mississauga
Figure 17b: Ottawa Figure 47b: Calgary
Figure 18b: Gatineau Figure 48a: Ottawa
Figure 19b: Markham Figure 49a: Ottawa
Figure 20b: Markham Figure 49b: Ottawa
Figure 21a: Ottawa Figure 50a: Ottawa
Figure 22b: Ottawa Figure 50b: Ottawa
Figure 23a: Ottawa Figure 51a: Portland
Figure 23b: Ottawa Figure 51b: US Environmental Protection Agency
Figure 24a: Montreal Figure 52a: Ottawa
Figure 24b: Ottawa Figure 52b: Richmond ON (source: The Planning Partnership)
Figure 25a: Ottawa Figure 53a: Ottawa
Figure 25b: Calgary Figure 53b: Calgary
Figure 26a: Montreal Figure 54a: Ottawa
Figure 27a: Vancouver Figure 55a: Ottawa
Figure 27b: Ottawa Figure 55b: Ottawa
Figure 28a: Ottawa Figure 56a: Ottawa
Figure 28b: Rochester Hills, Michigan (source: Bousfields Inc.) Figure 56b: Gatineau
Figure 29a: Ottawa Figure 57a: Ottawa
Figure 29b: Ottawa Figure 57b: Ottawa
Figure 30a: Portland Figure 58a: Montreal
Figure 30b: Ottawa Figure 58b: Gatineau
Figure 31b: Ottawa Figure 59a: Ottawa
Figure 32a: Ottawa Figure 59b: Ottawa
Figure 32b: Ottawa Figure 60a: Halifax
Figure 33a: Ottawa Figure 60b: Calgary
Figure 33b: Ottawa Figure 61b: Ottawa
Figure 33c: Ottawa Figure 62a: Ottawa
Figure 34a: Markham Figure 62b: Markham
Figure 34b: Calgary Figure 63a: Ottawa
Figure 35a: Ottawa Figure 63b: Montreal
Figure 35b: Calgary Figure 64a: Markham
Figure 35b: Calgary Figure 64b: Ottawa
Figure 36a: Madison, Wisconsin (source: Figure 65a: Ottawa


Amenity: something that contributes to an area’s needs, whether social, environmental, or cultural.

Articulation: architectural detail that gives a building interest and added richness.

Brownfields: abandoned, vacant, or underutilized commercial and industrial properties where past actions have resulted in actual or perceived environmental contamination, and/or derelict, deteriorated or obsolete buildings.

Built form: buildings and structures.

Building height-to-street width: the ratio between the height of a building to the width of the street right-of-way, used in analysing the sense of enclosure of a street.

Community Park: A large park that serves the needs of the broader community and that is designed primarily for providing active and structured recreation opportunities.

Compatible/Compatibility: when the density, form, bulk, height, setbacks and/or materials of buildings are able to co-exist with their surroundings.

Curb cut: a break in the curb for vehicular access from the street onto a property.

Façade: the principal face of a building (also referred to as the front wall).

Frontage: the front of the property facing the street.

Front yard: the space between the property line and the front wall of a building facing the public street.

Glazing: clear or lightly tinted glass windows.

Greenfields: large undeveloped lands within the urban boundary that serve as locations for new communities or for development that completes existing communities.

Green roof: a vegetated area that is designed to become part of a building’s roof.

Hard landscape: landscape features other than plant materials, such as decorative pavers, planter boxes, fences, or retaining walls.

Landscaped buffer: a landscaped area located along the perimeter of a lot intended to screen or separate land uses and lessens the visual or sound impacts.

Neighbourhood Park: a smaller park that serves the immediate needs of the surrounding neighbourhood or sub-neighbourhoods and that is designed primarily for non-structured recreation activities.

Pedestrian scale: a size of a building or space that a pedestrian perceives as not dominating or overpowering.

Pedestrian travel route: the unobstructed portion of the sidewalk.

Pocket Park: the smallest type of park that serves the most immediate recreation needs of a sub-neighbourhood and that are often designed for small children.

Primary Street: the street with a higher traffic volume where two streets intersect.

Property line: the legal boundary of a property.

Public realm: the streets, lanes, parks and open spaces that are available for anyone to use.

Rapid Transit: A convenient, fast, and frequent public transportation service that features a high carrying capacity.

Right-of-way: a public or private area that allows for passage, such as freeways, streets, bicycle paths, alleys, trails, or pedestrian walkways.

Scale: The relative size of an object when compared to others of its kind, to its environment, or to humans.

Secondary Street: the street with a lower traffic volume where two streets intersect.

Sense of enclosure: when buildings physically define public spaces particularly through proportions between height and width in an area to create places that are comfortable to pedestrians.

Setback: the required distance from a road, property line, or another structure, within which no building can be located, with the exception of permitted projections.

Sidewalk: unobstructed concrete pedestrian travel route in the public right-of-way.

Soft landscape: landscape features of plantings, such as trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and annuals.

Stormwater management area: a feature or facility for stormwater flows intended for capture and water quality improvement, including such elements as watercourses or management ponds.

Streetscape: the overall character and appearance of a street formed by elements and features that frame the public street, such as building façades, street trees and plants, lighting, furniture, or paving.

Trail: a route for non-motorized travel through natural areas or greenspaces

Urban design: the physical design of places and their components.

Walkway: a route for non-motorized travel on public or private property outside of the public street right-of-way.