March 19, 2021

Sustainability Checklist


A Measuring Stick of the Community’s Sustainability Values

The purpose of a Sustainability Checklist is to encourage new development that supports and advances community sustainability objectives. It is a measuring stick for staff and council/board to ensure development proceeds in accordance with the community’s sustainability values.

A Sustainability Checklist is a non-regulatory tool. It provides local governments with the ability to influence the approvals process in order to meet their sustainability and climate change objectives. A checklist is usually custom-made by each jurisdiction to meet their goals. It is however, useful to review other local government Sustainability Checklists  and consult Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard forms to get a sense of what will work for your community.

Normally, local governments require development and building permit applicants to complete a checklist as part of the approvals process. A Sustainability Checklist can be a separate checklist, or can be integrated into an existing development or building checklist. Once the Sustainability Checklist has been completed, staff and the developer discuss the results, and if necessary, explore ways to improve performance in relation to sustainability objectives.

A Sustainability Checklist can include a scoring system (numerical, weighted, or letter-graded) to advise development applicants about how their project proposal fares in relation to the stated sustainability objectives on the Sustainability Checklist.

Some local governments use a Sustainability Checklist as an incentive tool, tying a high score on the Sustainability Checklist to rewards like Tax Exemption, Development Cost Charges (DCC) reduction, Parking relaxation, and Application Fast-tracking.

Creating a sustainability checklist

The process of creating a Sustainability Checklist is usually led by local government staff. Items on the Sustainability Checklist are based on Official Community Plan (OCP) objectives for sustainable development, and generally include considerations about site layout and location within the community, as well as, building design. A council/board resolution generally authorizes the use of a Sustainability Checklist.

Using a sustainability checklist in the development application/approval process

  • Developers complete the Sustainability Checklist as part of their pre-application discussion with staff, or submit it with their development application.
  • Staff and the applicant discuss the proposed development’s score on the Sustainability Checklist, and identify how the proposal could be more sustainable.
  • The Council/Board/Staff receives the Sustainability Checklist for review when considering development approval.

Opportunities for climate change action

A Sustainability Checklist can help local governments creatively leverage development to reduce community emissions. A Sustainability Checklist can combine land use criteria and buildings criteria.

Land Use

  • A Sustainability Checklist can be used to implement, at a site level, policy objectives and targets for climate change action that relate to land use and urban design, which are articulated in the OCP and/or Neighbourhood Plans.
  • Local governments can fine-tune the incentive tool so that it entices new development to deliver on priorities in specific areas of town, e.g. new catalyst developments in existing neighbourhoods with lower land value, green development features, and/or non-market housing units.
  • The Green Building Council’s LEED criteria may be a useful resource for evaluating larger development proposals that propose a new development at the neighbourhood scale.


  • When performance on a Sustainability Checklist is linked to an incentive tool, local governments can reward developers’ decision to use green building elements and life cycle costing. By giving the developer an up-front financial reward (through whichever applicable means) the local government is helping to offset the slightly higher up-front cost to install green development features (average 2 to 5% premium), which will pay dividends in the longer-term to occupants.
  • Local governments may use Development Permit Areas (DPAs) in order to promote energy and water conservation, and the reduction of emissions. The regulation of energy and water conservation and emissions reduction within buildings is under the BC Building Code. A Sustainability Checklist is a non-regulatory tool that can encourage building energy efficiency that goes beyond the requirements of the BC Building Code and beyond what can be covered by DPAs, e.g. in the areas of plumbing, appliances, glazing, lighting, heating and cooling systems.
  • A Sustainability Checklist can be based on the Canada Green Building Council’s LEED rating system for various types of buildings: commercial and institutional (NC.1), multiple unit residential buildings (‘MURB’s), single family dwellings, and retrofits.
  • Since permits for new single family dwellings and retrofits follow a different administrative application process, local governments have developed distinct checklists for single family dwelling applications. The purpose is to encourage homebuilders to construct more energy efficient dwellings that contribute to the local government’s sustainability goals and emissions reduction targets. Local governments would distribute Sustainability Checklists to building permit applicants for voluntary completion and submission. There is an opportunity to link exceptional ratings on building checklists to local government incentives.


Example checklists:

Third party rating systems:


  • Energy
  • Land use and Transportation