Ottawa has been undergoing a major transformation in recent years: attractions such as Lansdowne Park and the Museum of Nature have been revitalized, federal buildings in the downtown core have been refurbished and work to build a light rail transit system, both above and below ground, speeds toward a 2018 completion.

But it's easy to forget that some of the biggest changes happen in our own backyards, as more and more residents move into into new developments, both downtown and suburban.

Between 2006 and 2016, Ottawa's population grew from about 812,000 to more than 930,000, but the distribution of growth hasn't been even.

In the first five years of that decade, much of the growth occurred in suburban wards such as Gloucester-South Nepean, Barrhaven, Kanata North, Stittsville and Cumberland.

Suburban sprawl on display

From 2011-2016, suburban growth slowed and was matched by more people moving into urban wards, such as Rideau-Vanier, Somerset and Kitchissippi.

Keeping track of that growth isn't always easy, but one handy, visual tool to track suburban sprawl is now easily available.

Google Earth Engine, a tool launched in December, allows users to go back in time and compare satellite images dating back to 1984.

Here's a visual trip through some of the hottest growth spots in Ottawa and Gatineau.


Once upon a time — 2006, to be precise — the combined population of Barrhaven and Gloucester-South Nepean was 63,710, according to Statistics Canada census data.

As of 2015, these wards accounted for more than 106,000 residents, and were the first and fourth-most populous in Ottawa.

You can see from the map below how neighbourhoods like Half Moon Bay, Stonebridge, Riverside South and Davidson Heights spring forth to meet Barrhaven at the rail line.

According to the latest census data, an area that includes Half Moon Bay and Stonebridge west of Jockvale Road is both the fastest-growing neighbourhood in Ottawa and the most populous, with 16,747 people residing there as of May 2016. 


Stittsville was Ottawa's smallest ward by population in 2006, with just 19,410 people living in the southwest community.

While rural wards including OsgoodeRideau-Golbourn and West Carleton-March saw modest growth between 2006 and 2011, Stittsville's population ballooned by more than 36 per cent.

Those other rural wards have started to blossom, but haven't kept pace with Stittsville.


Kanata's grew steadily through the 1980s and 1990s thanks largely to the tech boom, but the area's population has continued to grow through these latter, leaner years.


The ward of Orléans only has so much space to grow, but its southern neighbour, Cumberland, is another story.

In the time lapse below, you can watch the neighbourhoods of Notting Hill, Summerside and Avalon south of Innes Road sprout from uninhabited green space, beginning in 2000.

The latest statistics show Avalon leading the growth over the last five years, with the population for one neighbourhood west of Portobello Drive increasing from 5,520 to 9,933.

Findlay Creek

Fifteen years ago there was no Findlay Creek, the suburban cluster south of Leitrim Road between Albion Road and Bank Street, and the earliest satellite view confirms it.

But as Wednesday's census revealed, it's now a booming neighbourhood, with a population that exploded from 4,486 in 2011 to 8,865 in 2016.


When it comes to growth in Gatineau, Que., Aylmer has led the way.

Watching the time-lapse below, you can watch the Plateau neighbourhood's sprawl to the west, as adjacent areas such as Des Explorateurs and Deschênes spread north.

North Gatineau

Finally, the old neighbourhood of the now amalgamated city has extended its reach north up to Highway 50, as new neighbourhoods such as  Côte  d'Azur have emerged.