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City of Burlington launches technology pilot to accelerate permitting process for industrial-commercial buildings

The City of Burlington is undertaking a pilot program to accelerate the permitting process for industrial-commercial buildings. Burlington is the second city in Canada to use this technology to improve its permitting process and make it easier to build in Burlington. Burlington is also the first city in Canada to use the technology specifically for development on employment lands.

How it works

Using innovative AI-powered technology, 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 such as setbacks, heights, floor area ratios, landscape areas and parking ratios.

The digital tool also generates a comprehensive compliance report which is available to the applicant immediately. The report gives applicants a summary of which aspects of the design have passed or failed, as well as details about how the design complies with each zoning bylaw rule.

The AI-powered technology’s ability to review designs quickly and efficiently provides value to the City, customers, and staff, including:

  • Saved time, by reducing the number of manual exchanges between applicants and City staff
  • Allowing applicants to have immediate feedback on proposals and allowing for modifications prior to submission
  • Faster approvals and turnaround time on issuing building permits
  • Shortened design time
  • Higher quality of design submissions
  • Financial savings on the cost of multiple design revisions
  • Enhanced transparency about the City of Burlington’s development review process

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward, said, “We’re working to make it easier to build in Burlington. From our Pipeline to Permit plan and new Standing Committee to help us reach our goal of 29,000 residential units by 2031, to this pilot program for industrial buildings, our City is committed to streamlining and shortening the building permit assessment process. We’re excited to be the first municipality in Canada to leverage this powerful tool specifically for development on employment lands, and to work in conjunction with our planning experts to improve results for those looking to do business in our city.”

The pilot began in late July and will conclude by the end of 2023. The objective of the pilot is to provide essential data on the value such a tool may provide for Burlington in accomplishing our stated organizational goals related to housing. 

Chad MacDonald, Executive Director Digital Services and Chief Information Officer, said, “This pilot is a significant step toward a more efficient, customer-centric building plan review process at the City. As technology continues to evolve, we want to harness the power of these digital tools to create tangible improvements for residents and businesses. The simple interface of this platform allows applicants to easily submit their application, get instantaneous results, and fine tune their design, making the approval process faster, easier, and cheaper.” 

The platform can also be used to check design compliance on all forms of development. While this option is not currently part of the pilot, applicants can pick a specific site, upload their design to the platform and immediately see a 3D visualization which allows users to assess whether their design meets the rules.

Next steps after the pilot may include further pilots or a larger-scale rollout.

Burlington is a city where people, nature and businesses thrive. Sign up to learn more about Burlington at Burlington.ca/Enews and follow @CityBurlington on social media.

Brynn Nheiley, Executive Director Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility, said, “Staff have enthusiastically embraced this pilot project as an innovative tool to add to our Customer Experience platforms and processes. AI-supported development review has the potential to free up capacity for our technical experts to focus on the processing of other more nuanced and complex development applications that are increasingly coming forward as the City evolves away from greenfield development.”

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