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Ecological Neighbourhood Design


What is it?

Ecological Neighbourhood Design incorporates the consideration of ecological concerns as a priority into entire communities. Ecological Neighbourhood Design goes beyond individual buildings or properties, and includes plans for large areas of connected open space and concentration of human activity. Ecological Neighbourhood Design utilizes practices such as low impact development technologies and cluster development.

By identifying valued aspects of the natural infrastructure first, and prioritizing its protection, ecologically-designed neighbourhoods provide a sustainable approach to growth. Ecological Neighbourhood Design can also be applied to infill, development of brownfields and greyfields, as well as on undeveloped land.

How can municipalities use it?

Municipalities can encourage Ecological Neighbourhood Design in their municipality by including its principles in their Municipal Development Plan and Area Structure Plans. To incentivize developers, municipalities can align programs such as a Transfer of Development Program to encourage incorporating Ecological Neighbourhood Design Principles.

What are the advantages?

Ecological Neighbourhood Design has the following advantages:

  • Incorporates natural infrastructure conservation at the neighbourhood scale

  • Reduces impact from development and human use on the natural infrastructure system

  • Involves developers in the natural infrastructure maintenance discussion

  • Can allow similar density levels as traditional developments

  • Increases walkability, aesthetics, and recreational and social opportunities

  • Provides an opportunity to educate community members on sustainable growth and importance of ecological protection

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. There are some considerations to be made about Ecological Neighbourhood Design:

  • Developers may be reluctant to invest in Ecological Neighbourhood Design

  • Mapping and inventory of the natural infrastructure system required

  • A demand for an alternative community must exist

  • Existing codes and guidelines may not support Ecological Neighbourhood Design

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

Ecological Neighbourhood Design helps to maintain the natural infrastructure system by ensuring the development of a new community maximizes the amount of open space protected. By incorporating practices such as cluster development and low impact development, the development footprint avoids the most important natural infrastructure assets, and ensures the development has a lighter impact on natural infrastructure functions. Further, Ecological Neighbourhood Design incorporates the use of sustainable materials and energy-efficient practices, further protecting the environment.


Community and Site Planning for Green Residential Design – An excerpt from the Beyond Green Guidelines for High-Performance Homes by the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council. Outlines the principles and process for effective community and site planning for green residential design.

International Living Future Institute - The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) offers global strategies for lasting sustainability, partnering with local communities to create grounded and relevant solutions, including green building and infrastructure solutions on scales ranging from single room renovations to neighborhoods or whole cities.

Code, Regulatory and Systemic Barriers Affecting Living Building Projects – This document addresses both systemic and specific regulatory barriers encountered by projects pursuing the goals and prerequisites established by the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge within the U.S. and Canada.

Global Ecovillage Network – The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) builds bridges between policy-makers, governments, NGOs, academics, entrepreneurs, activists, community networks and ecologically-minded individuals across the globe in order to develop strategies for a global transition to resilient communities and cultures. GEN provides information and case studies on ecovillages.

LEED for Neighbourhood Development – LEED for Neighbourhood Development (LEED ND) was engineered to inspire and help create better, more sustainable, well-connected neighbourhoods. It looks beyond the scale of buildings to consider entire communities.

LEED Reference Guide for Neighbourhood Development – This reference guide provides a roadmap, describing the steps for meeting and documenting LEED Neighbourhood Development credit requirements and offering advice on best practices.

Principles and Practices of Ecological Design – This article presents the recent application of the principles of eco-design to the planning and management of human communities, industrial parks and networks, architectural practice, and products.

A Green Infrastructure Guide for Small Cities, Towns and Rural Communities – Provides an overview of ‘ecosystem planning’ as well as resources. This document also provides case studies of this and various other tools, primarily green infrastructure tools. This document discusses how neighbourhood design can achieve ecological outcomes.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

Thanks for helping us out!

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