5 Canadian cities progressing the construction process

Municipalities have their own part to play in improving the built environment. Here are some that have the courage to try new things.

Kelowna, B.C.

Kelowna isn’t just breaking new ground in Canada, they are breaking new ground globally. The city has partnered with Microsoft to be one of the first cities in the world to use artificial intelligence to speed up its project development process. The project includes two areas of focus. The first is an information bot and the other is AI assistance for applications. The information bot can receive inquiries and, based on what is written, give answers comparable to what a human would. Rather than having to pore over bylaw documents, users can simply ask the bot. The AI assistance tool shadows applicants as they fill out their forms and tells them in real time if they are compliant or not.

Burlington, Ont.

Following the lead of Kelowna, the City of Burlington became the second municipality to integrate artificial intelligence into its building permit process. They ran a pilot program to accelerate the permitting process for industrial-commercial buildings. But they are the first city in Canada to use the technology specifically for development on employment lands. The AI the platform used in the pilot digitizes the rules in Burlington’s zoning bylaws, relating to industrial-commercial buildings. Once applicants have submitted a proposed design, the platform automatically evaluates the design’s compliance against the relevant rules. The solution checks to ensure requirements are met for things

Edmonton, Alta.

Thanks to a city council vote late last year, property owners in Edmonton will be able to build three-storey apartment buildings, townhouses, rowhouses or duplexes with up to eight units in any residential area citywide. It’s just the latest move that cements Edmonton’s reputation for people wanting to build. They ranked first in a benchmarking list of major Canadian cities for their permitting times and costs. The city’s online portal services have advanced functionality, including the ability to apply for pre-application meetings for rezoning, subdivision and development permits. There are also online services for submitting various actual planning applications, in addition to building permits. They were also the first jurisdiction in Canada to cut minimum parking requirements.


Montreal is using technology and data to identify the sore spots in the city and come up with solutions to improve them. Several neighbourhoods have been selected for improvement following an assessment of the area by the Living Environment Equity Index, which is available online for residents to consult in order to determine whether their neighborhood is considered vulnerable or high priority. This includes determine what infrastructure is need most and where. Officials say they want to use the tool to help the city grow and change in ways that benefit residents.


Calgary not only ranked third among major cities for their ability to get building permits approved fast and affordably, they have undertaken a plethora of other innovative projects themselves and supported others. Most recently they lent their support to the Emissions-Neutral Building Information Exchange (ENBIX) which brings industry together to advance emissions-neutral buildings in Alberta. And rather than lament their high downtown office vacancy rates, the city rolled up its sleeves to use digital tools that helped identify opportunities for converting those towers into housing.


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