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City Builder Glossary

The #CityGlossary will help guide you through the realm of city building. What does it mean when we talk about capacity building or smart cities? What even is a city builder? Find out!

Streetscape in Tokyo. Image: Chris Chan/Unsplash
Image: Chris Chan/Unsplash

In our work helping create flourishing cities across the country, we come across, and use, terms that would be considered jargon in everyday conversations. But this isn't always the best when we're trying to create city building that is inclusive for all. This glossary will help you to understand more about city building. Follow the conversation online with #CityGlossary. 

City Builder Terms:

Capacity Building
/kə-ˈpa-sə-tē bil-diŋ /

Providing the support and resources, such as workshops, mentorship and research, needed in order for people to make a positive impact on their cities, from residents and organizations to practitioners and city officials.

Carbon Offsetting
/ˌkärbən ˈôfsetiNG/

The counteracting of carbon dioxide emissions with an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

City Builder
/ˈsitē ˈbildər/

A person who influences positive change to the cultural, social, environmental, physical and/or economic components of a city.

Civic Commons
/ˈsivik ˈkämənz/

A network of public places and facilities that enable communities to learn, celebrate, express collective actions, collaborate and flourish, together. Can include libraries, parks, community centres, squares and more.

Civic Engagement
/ ˈsi-vik ‘in-ˈgāj-mənt/

A process and practice that seeks to include residents in the decision making around city building. This can be led by individuals or groups, by public or private organizations, or by the government.

Civic Incubator
/ˈsi-vik ˈiŋ-kyə-ˌbā-tər /

A program that nurtures city builders by providing them with skills training and education, and access to a network of resources.

Complete Streets
/kəmˈplēt strēts/

A way of designing roads so they are safe, comfortable and convenient for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, transit-users and drivers.

Flourishing City
/ˈflər-i-shiŋ sitē/

A city that is thriving, resilient and inclusive at its core, where all residents benefit from the thoughtful integration of the natural and built world.

Healthy Housing Ecosystem
/ˈhelTHē ˈhouziNG ˈēkōˌsistəm/

A housing environment where there are housing options that are the right size, location and price for everyone. A healthy housing ecosystem includes a balanced mix of temporary shelters, housing with supports, home ownership, rental units and subsidized housing.

Inclusive City
/inˈklo͞osiv ˈsi-tē/

A city in which all residents are included in the decision making and development process, and where all feel they belong.

Inclusive Innovation
/in-ˈklü-siv ˌi-nə-ˈvā-shən/

People of diverse experiences and backgrounds working collectively to find new ways to solve complex urban challenges that make cities a better place for all.


Adding homes, transportation, jobs, schools and other forms of density in already developed, urbanized areas.

Laneway Suite
/lān-wā swēt/

A small dwelling at the rear of a residential lot that is detached from the primary home. 

Loose Parts Play
//lo͞os ‘pärts ‘plā//

Materials – such as wood, pine cones, stones and sticks – that can be moved, carried and redesigned to encourage children to interact with the natural world while experimenting with their physical and creative abilities.

Mid-Sized Cities
/'mid sīzd 'sitēs/

Canadian cities with populations ranging from 50,000 to 500,000 residents. These cities have the potential to become leaders of sustainable and inclusive city-building initiatives across Canada.

  1. The ability to move all people safely and affordably between where they live, work and play. Includes walking, cycling, the use of wheelchairs, public transit, cars and more.
  2. The ability to transport goods in an efficient and sustainable manner for the benefit of all
Nature Play
/ˈnāCHər plā/

A child-led, unstructured play, occurring outside and using natural materials. This approach provides children with the freedom to be the architects of their environment, to invent and build using their own creativity and problem-solving skills, all the while developing an appreciation for the natural world.

Open Data
/ˈōpən ˈdadə/

Data that anyone can access, use and share. Any person, business, government or organization can use open data to bring about social, economic and environmental benefits.

Open Smart City
/ōpən 'smärt 'si-tē/

An Open Smart City is where all sectors and residents collaborate in mobilizing data and technologies to develop their communities through fair, ethical, and transparent governance that balances economic development, social progress, and environmental responsibility.

/plās ˈmākiNG/

The process of working together to shape and create public spaces. Placemaking brings together diverse people to plan, design, manage and program shared-use spaces.

Public Realm
/ˈpəblik relm/

An area that is publicly-accessible, including streets, squares, parks and open spaces, which enables the public's interaction and connection with each other and their city.

Public Space
/ˈpəblik spās/

An area or place that is open and accessible to all people.

Regenerative City
/ri-ˈje-nə-ˌrā-tiv, ˈsi-tē/

A city designed to eliminate negative environmental impact and help restore balance with natural systems. Regenerative cities are low-carbon and rely on renewable energies, not fossil fuels.

Smart City
/'smärt 'si-tē/

A resilient, inclusive and collaboratively-built city that uses technology and data to better the quality of life for all people.

Transit-Supportive Development
/ˈtranzət səˈpôrdiv dəˈveləpmənt/

A type of urban growth that is concentrated around areas well served by a range of mobility options.

Urban Intervention
/ˈər-bən in-tər-ˈven(t)-shən/

A project that alters a city or neighbourhood to make it more enjoyable. These projects are often temporary, low-cost and run by the community.

Urban Resilience
/ˈərbən rəˈzilyəns/

The capacity of a city, its businesses, institutions, residents and communities, to survive, adapt and grow despite whatever stresses and shocks they experience.