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The Capital Design Guidelines is a reference tool for designers and decision-makers in the National Capital Region. The document sets out the NCC's expectations for the design of important places and buildings in the region.

Simply put, these guidelines offer a clear and common understanding of design excellence. They will help us create a thriving, meaningful, and inspiring Capital for generations to come.

About the guidelines

The NCC is the federal planning and coordinating agency for the National Capital Region. As such, we protect the character and national significance of the Capital, and continually strive to make it better for everyone. The Capital Design Guidelines help us achieve that goal.

The guidelines are a working collection of advice and direction, best practices, and aspiration. They are tailored to the Capital context and apply to Capital-building projects.

They cover the most critical aspects of the Capital’s composition and character. They also cover specific themes, like bird-safe design, gender-based analysis plus and universal accessibility. They will continue to grow and expand as needed.

The guidelines are not prescriptive. They convey intent and are flexible about ways to achieve the outcome. Here is an example of a guideline.

G1.2.3 Topography and vegetation: Conserve existing topography and natural native vegetation. Avoid clearing and regrading/levelling sites where topography contributes to a site’s experience.
Visual comparing two designs with a path in the middle of a slope ending on a body of water. The correct design keeps natural vegetation by the water and on the slope. The incorrect design removes natural vegetation and replaces the natural slope with a retaining wall.

Design excellence

When it comes to evaluating design, there are many things to consider, and no set rules for what makes a design excellent. It depends on many factors, and what is excellent in one case may not be in another.

However, at their core, excellent designs are suitable, accessible, inclusive, durable, and pleasing.

Review process

The Capital Design Guidelines were approved in January 2023. The NCC Capital Planning Branch will review and update them as needed to remain current and with evolving themes and best practices.

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