Special Issue "Indicators, Assessment Tools, and Rating Systems for Mainstreaming Sustainability in Urban Planning and Development"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Urban and Rural Development".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2020.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Ayyoob Sharifi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Graduate School for International Development and Cooperation (IDEC), Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan
Interests: Urban Energy Consumption; Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation; Sustainability and Resilience of Urban Systems
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The past few decades have seen an explosion of interest in the development and application of indicators, assessment tools, and rating systems for measuring the effectiveness of urban plans, policies, and programs on a variety of scales (ranging from neighborhoods, to cities, and even regions).

This Special Issue of Sustainability offers a platform for advancing our understanding of the theory and practice of urban sustainability assessment. It aims to draw together a collection of high-quality papers, discussing how development and application of indicators, assessment tools, and rating systems can support cities in their quest for sustainable development. We encourage researchers and practitioners to submit original research articles, case studies, reviews, critical perspectives, and viewpoint articles on topics including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Methodological aspects of urban sustainability assessment;
  • The process of urban sustainability assessment (vs. assessment being an end goal in itself);
  • Stakeholder involvement in urban sustainability assessment;
  • Links between tools and indicators developed for different scales (individual buildings, neighborhoods, cities, and regions);
  • Lessons learned from about three decades of research and practice;
  • Urban sustainability assessment vis-à-vis urban resilience assessment and smart city assessment;
  • Integration of concepts such as resilience and smartness into urban sustainability assessment;
  • The level of adoption of indicators, assessment tools, and rating systems by cities;
  • Neighborhood sustainability assessment tools;
  • Viability of using universal standards for urban sustainability assessment;
  • Case studies: success, as well as failure, stories;
  • Urban sustainability assessment in the Global South;
  • The evolution and future of urban sustainability assessment.

Prof. Ayyoob Sharifi
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Urban sustainability
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Urban resilience
  • Smart and sustainable cities
  • Neighborhood sustainability
  • Indicators
  • Assessment tools
  • Rating systems
  • Certification systems

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Efficiency of Sustainable Cities Using an Empirical Approach
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 2618; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072618 (registering DOI) - 26 Mar 2020
Abstract
Sustainability is a multidisciplinary discipline posing a difficult problem as a result of its integrated assessment. From a broad perspective, it considers the impact of human activities (using different resources) and natural conditions on local environments. Urban development has been identified as one [...] Read more.
Sustainability is a multidisciplinary discipline posing a difficult problem as a result of its integrated assessment. From a broad perspective, it considers the impact of human activities (using different resources) and natural conditions on local environments. Urban development has been identified as one of the most important reasons for environmental and social degradation. To address the complexity of sustainability and its impact, policymakers need to be equipped with the right toolkit to foresee the integrated effect of projects and plans on urban sustainability more effectively in their policy design. In this paper, we propose a tool to assess the sustainable performance of urban areas through a common framework of indicators which provides an integrated measurement based on the relative efficiency of key input variables on desirable and undesirable outputs. Using Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), we propose a procedure for determining the relative efficiency of relevant urban areas, proposing this method as a candidate for integrated sustainability measurement. The selection of variables is based on dimensions which can be addressed from a political perspective for achieving more desirable outputs, or reducing the undesirable ones, controlling for key resources as much as possible. Our analysis takes a comprehensive scope including an environmental and socioeconomic perspective. This will be useful to identify weaknesses and strengths to improve the integrated performance of cities. Our array of indicators, based on standardized key performance indicators (KPIs) will enable policymakers to gather an insightful impact of their proposals in urban sustainability carrying out a global sustainability impact assessment through DEA. The main goal is to gather the urban experience of transforming cities into smarter cities and putting technological progress at the service of their societies. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Energy Transitions Towards Low Carbon Resilience: Evaluation of Disaster-Triggered Local and Regional Cases
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6801; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236801 - 30 Nov 2019
Abstract
Following numerous global scientific studies and major international agreements, the decarbonization of energy systems is an apparent and pressing concern. The consequence of continued emission growth tied to rising global average temperatures is difficult to predict, but against a background of other natural [...] Read more.
Following numerous global scientific studies and major international agreements, the decarbonization of energy systems is an apparent and pressing concern. The consequence of continued emission growth tied to rising global average temperatures is difficult to predict, but against a background of other natural and human-induced disasters, may create a situation, from a positive perspective, where each disaster event triggers “build back better” responses designed to speed the transition toward low carbon, resilience-oriented energy systems. This article examines the potential for disaster-triggered responses in communities, at various local and regional levels, in four industrial economies in the Asia Pacific region: Japan, China, Australia, and the USA. Seven case studies were evaluated against a set of criteria that exemplify the key aspects of resilient energy systems. The research results suggest that a new space of innovation does emerge in post-disaster situations at a range of local and regional scales. The greatest potential benefit and opportunity for significant gains, however, appears to manifest at the small community level, and the ultimate challenge relates to how to mainstream local innovations into state and national level transformation on energy systems so as to enhance resilience and promote rapid decarbonization. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Indicators and Assessment System for Sustainability of Municipalities: A Case Study of South Korea’s Assessment of Sustainability of Cities (ASC)
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6611; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236611 - 22 Nov 2019
Abstract
Sustainability assessment systems are commonly used to achieve sustainability. However, internationally agreed systems are difficult to locate. Analysis of sustainability assessment systems in various contexts can lead to creating a standardized sustainability assessment framework. Here, we reviewed the experience of the sustainability assessment [...] Read more.
Sustainability assessment systems are commonly used to achieve sustainability. However, internationally agreed systems are difficult to locate. Analysis of sustainability assessment systems in various contexts can lead to creating a standardized sustainability assessment framework. Here, we reviewed the experience of the sustainability assessment system applied in Korea for sharing knowledge and providing implications for creating internationally standardized sustainability assessment frameworks. The subject of the study was the assessment of sustainability of cities (ASC, conducted annually by the Korean government) using data from the 2015 assessment and consisting of two parts: Descriptive analysis of the ASC system and analysis of the 2015 ASC assessment results. The ASC assessment unit is the low-ranked municipality, and indicators include social, economic, environmental, and institutional themes. The ASC assesses overall sustainability by incorporating mandatory and voluntary indicators, and the Korean government encourages improved sustainability through awards, diagnostic reports, and incentives. Gun was highly evaluated in social sustainability, and the southern Seoul metropolitan area and Chungcheong area were highly evaluated in economic sustainability. In environmental sustainability, metropolitan cities received high scores, while institutional theme scores were not high in any specific area. Municipalities in metropolitan cities received higher voluntary indicator scores than rural areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Housing Indicators for Sustainable Cities in Middle-Income Countries through the Residential Urban Environment Recognized Using Single-Family Housing Rating Systems
Sustainability 2019, 11(16), 4276; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11164276 - 07 Aug 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
This study presents a comparative analysis of the housing indicators used by the single-family housing rating systems (SHRSs), in which the residential urban environment (RUE) influences buildings’ certification scores, emphasizing the relationships of six systems developed by middle-income countries (MICs)—BEST, CASA, GBI, BERDE, [...] Read more.
This study presents a comparative analysis of the housing indicators used by the single-family housing rating systems (SHRSs), in which the residential urban environment (RUE) influences buildings’ certification scores, emphasizing the relationships of six systems developed by middle-income countries (MICs)—BEST, CASA, GBI, BERDE, Green Homes, and LOTUS—and the two most-recognized rating systems, BREEAM and LEED. The aim is to provide new housing indicators that are capable of bringing the concept of sustainability into the cities of MICs. The results reveal that the percentage of influence that single-family housing (SFH) can achieve in the metric established by each system is relatively low. However, considering all of the identified indicators, this influence could increase to 53.16% of the total score in multi-criteria evaluations. Furthermore, a significant lack of indicators for mandatory criteria evaluations was found, with CASA being the only system that considers their inclusion. This paper identifies 37 indicators for multi-criteria assessments and two for mandatory-criteria assessments, providing new perspectives on several topics. Furthermore, the methodology established to obtain the indicators could be useful for other researchers in the identification of new sustainable indicators. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Landscape-Based Assessment of Urban Resilience and Its Evolution: A Case Study of the Central City of Shenyang
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2964; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102964 - 24 May 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Urban resilience is increasingly considered a useful approach to accommodate uncertainties while achieving sustainability in urban systems, especially in the context of rapid urbanization and global environmental change. However, current research on the quantitative assessment of urban resilience is limited. This study introduces [...] Read more.
Urban resilience is increasingly considered a useful approach to accommodate uncertainties while achieving sustainability in urban systems, especially in the context of rapid urbanization and global environmental change. However, current research on the quantitative assessment of urban resilience is limited. This study introduces four proxies of urban resilience, i.e., diversity, connectivity, decentralization, and self-sufficiency, and the perspective of the urban landscape for the measurement of urban resilience and further guidance on planning practices by establishing connections between resilience potential and landscape characteristics. Using multi-source data and employing landscape-based analysis methods, urban resilience is investigated from 1995 to 2015 in the central city of Shenyang. The results indicate that the composition and configuration of the urban landscape changed significantly during this period, which had a great influence on urban resilience. The temporal and spatial evolution of urban resilience showed obviously directional preferences and an evident distance effect. Overall, the resilience level increased slightly, while the internal differences experienced a declining trend. The four characteristics can be deployed as practical principles to shape urban resilience. The adjustment and trade-offs of these aspects to enhance responsive structures and simultaneously maintain sustainable ecosystem services can be effective ways to realize long-term resilience. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Key Considerations When Designing Certification Systems for Urban Sustainability and Implications for The Swedish Post-Construction System Citylab
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2673; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092673 - 10 May 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Addressing sustainability in urban planning has led to an increasing number of certification systems to support such processes. Nevertheless, there is no commonly recognised framework listing what is important to consider when developing such systems. Citylab is a certification system that is used [...] Read more.
Addressing sustainability in urban planning has led to an increasing number of certification systems to support such processes. Nevertheless, there is no commonly recognised framework listing what is important to consider when developing such systems. Citylab is a certification system that is used in several Swedish urban development projects. Today, Citylab certifies the planning process of urban areas but it will be extended with a post-construction part. This paper presents a three steps analysis of the design of such a post-construction certification system. First, a literature review was performed, which allowed for identifying three principles and 11 sub-principles that make up a generic framework for the design of similar certification systems. Second, 13 semi-structured interviews were conducted in Sweden with key urban development stakeholders to better specify the scope of a post-construction extension of Citylab. As a result, four alternatives emerge for the role and function of this system. Third, crossing the results of both previous steps allowed for an understanding of important considerations and implications for the Citylab post-construction certification system design. The paper concludes on the relevance of such a reflexive procedure for the design of certification systems in general, in which the use of the framework is a key to ensure transparency and enable deliberate choices and priorities. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Exploring the Trend of New Zealand Housing Prices to Support Sustainable Development
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2482; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092482 - 28 Apr 2019
Abstract
The New Zealand housing sector is experiencing rapid growth that has a significant impact on society, the economy, and the environment. In line with the growth, the housing market for both residential and business purposes has been booming, as have house prices. To [...] Read more.
The New Zealand housing sector is experiencing rapid growth that has a significant impact on society, the economy, and the environment. In line with the growth, the housing market for both residential and business purposes has been booming, as have house prices. To sustain the housing development, it is critical to accurately monitor and predict housing prices so as to support the decision-making process in the housing sector. This study is devoted to applying a mathematical method to predict housing prices. The forecasting performance of two types of models: autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) and multiple linear regression (MLR) analysis are compared. The ARIMA and regression models are developed based on a training-validation sample method. The results show that the ARIMA model generally performs better than the regression model. However, the regression model explores, to some extent, the significant correlations between house prices in New Zealand and the macro-economic conditions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
VisualUVAM: A Decision Support System Addressing the Curse of Dimensionality for the Multi-Scale Assessment of Urban Vulnerability in Spain
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2191; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082191 - 12 Apr 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Many-objective optimization methods have proven successful in the integration of research attributes demanded for urban vulnerability assessment models. However, these techniques suffer from the curse of the dimensionality problem, producing an excessive burden in the decision-making process by compelling decision-makers to select alternatives [...] Read more.
Many-objective optimization methods have proven successful in the integration of research attributes demanded for urban vulnerability assessment models. However, these techniques suffer from the curse of the dimensionality problem, producing an excessive burden in the decision-making process by compelling decision-makers to select alternatives among a large number of candidates. In other fields, this problem has been alleviated through cluster analysis, but there is still a lack in the application of such methods for urban vulnerability assessment purposes. This work addresses this gap by a novel combination of visual analytics and cluster analysis, enabling the decision-maker to select the set of indicators best representing urban vulnerability accordingly to three criteria: expert’s preferences, goodness of fit, and robustness. Based on an assessment framework previously developed, VisualUVAM affords an evaluation of urban vulnerability in Spain at regional, provincial, and municipal scales, whose results demonstrate the effect of the governmental structure of a territory over the vulnerability of the assessed entities. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
An Integrated Indicator System and Evaluation Model for Regional Sustainable Development
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2183; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072183 - 11 Apr 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Regional sustainable development has become a worldwide issue in recent years, but there is no single and universally agreed method of choosing indicators for sustainable development assessment. The subjective selection of indicators will affect the results of assessment. Each evaluation method has its [...] Read more.
Regional sustainable development has become a worldwide issue in recent years, but there is no single and universally agreed method of choosing indicators for sustainable development assessment. The subjective selection of indicators will affect the results of assessment. Each evaluation method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the methods used to determine indicator weight also differ. Regional sustainable development is a complex system, which is difficult to evaluate objectively and scientifically using a single method. Therefore, a new integrated indicator system and evaluation model is constructed here to more accurately reflect regional sustainable development level. The indicator system and evaluation model were constructed using a case study of 17 cities in Shandong Province, China. The indicator system includes 4 subsystems, i.e., economy, society, resource, and environment. These indicators were selected through correlation analysis and discrimination analysis. A back propagation neural network was applied to evaluate the respective scores of the 4 subsystems. The comprehensive score for regional sustainable development was evaluated using the analytic hierarchy process with entropy correction. The results show that sustainable development levels in these 17 cities show a gradually decreasing trend from east to west and from coast to inland. Cities with an underdeveloped economy usually display poor levels of social development and serious environmental pollution. Through the improvement of indicator screening, evaluation model, and result correction, the error caused by a single evaluation method can be reduced significantly. This new methodology for indicator selection and comprehensive evaluation provides a new perspective for the assessment of regional sustainable development. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Key Factors in the Success of Eco-Communities in Taiwan’s Countryside: The Role of Government, Partner, and Community Group
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1208; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041208 - 25 Feb 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The ideals of the successful implementation of an eco-community involve several key elements. This study used a literature review to clarify the key factors for the successful implementation of an eco-community and established the influence of these key elements through expert questionnaires. The [...] Read more.
The ideals of the successful implementation of an eco-community involve several key elements. This study used a literature review to clarify the key factors for the successful implementation of an eco-community and established the influence of these key elements through expert questionnaires. The results of the study showed that the most crucial part of building a successful eco-community is the community group, followed by the partners who assist the community, and finally the assistance and support of the government. The leader of a community plays the most critical role, followed by the community group, and community self-consciousness. In addition, if the community can establish partnerships with experts, scholars, nongovernmental organizations, and nonprofit organizations, and construct a stable autonomous financial system, the eco-community is guaranteed to continue operating. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Sustainable Urban Development System Measurement Based on Dissipative Structure Theory, the Grey Entropy Method and Coupling Theory: A Case Study in Chengdu, China
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 293; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010293 - 08 Jan 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
With the rapid advancement of urbanization, the sustainable development of the city has received more and more attention. The measurement of the sustainable development of a city can provide an important reference for the development of the city. Therefore, this paper firstly constructs [...] Read more.
With the rapid advancement of urbanization, the sustainable development of the city has received more and more attention. The measurement of the sustainable development of a city can provide an important reference for the development of the city. Therefore, this paper firstly constructs an index system for five dimensions: society, the economy, the environment, resources, and technology. Then, a sustainable development measurement model is established based on dissipative structure theory, grey entropy and coupling theory, and the evolution trend and coordinated development of the city are measured. Finally, Chengdu, an important central city in the western region of China, is selected for sustainable development measurement research, from which it was found that the city became more sustainable and more orderly, the development level was constantly improving, and the coordination was continuously improving, which was consistent with the actual situation and indicated that the proposed measurement model could effectively measure and evaluate sustainable urban development. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluation on Construction Level of Smart City: An Empirical Study from Twenty Chinese Cities
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3348; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093348 - 19 Sep 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Currently, the construction of smart cities (SCs) has been booming all over the world and it also acts as a useful tool for the Chinese government to promote the sustainable development of cities. Identifying the aspects of SCs and systematically evaluating the level [...] Read more.
Currently, the construction of smart cities (SCs) has been booming all over the world and it also acts as a useful tool for the Chinese government to promote the sustainable development of cities. Identifying the aspects of SCs and systematically evaluating the level of smart city construction are significant for urban management and healthy development. Based on the bibliometrics and Chinese experience with smart city construction, this paper firstly proposes dividing the smart city system into four subsystems, that is, smart infrastructure, smart economy, smart governance and smart participation and to establish their corresponding indicator systems. Information entropy method and grey correlation analysis are then adopted to determine the weight of each indicator and evaluate the city smartness level respectively. After that, 20 major cities in China are taken as cases for evaluation. The evaluation is performed on the grey correlation degree of these cities and their variations between 2012 and 2016. Through the further comparison of regional distribution and clustering analysis of these cities, the paper points out the general characteristics and level differences of smart city construction in China. Finally, some policy implications are proposed to improve the smartness level for Chinese cities. Full article
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Open AccessConcept Paper
Rethinking Performance Gaps: A Regenerative Sustainability Approach to Built Environment Performance Assessment
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4829; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124829 - 18 Dec 2018
Cited by 4
Abstract
Globally, there are significant challenges to meeting built environment performance targets. The gaps found between the predicted performance of new or retrofit buildings and their actual performance impede an understanding of how to achieve these targets. This paper points to the importance of [...] Read more.
Globally, there are significant challenges to meeting built environment performance targets. The gaps found between the predicted performance of new or retrofit buildings and their actual performance impede an understanding of how to achieve these targets. This paper points to the importance of reliable and informative building performance assessments. We argue that if we are to make progress in achieving our climate goals, we need to reframe built environment performance with a shift to net positive goals, while recognising the equal importance of human and environmental outcomes. This paper presents a simple conceptual framework for built environment performance assessment and identifies three performance gaps: (i) Prediction Gap (e.g., modelled and measured energy, water consumption); (ii) Expectations Gap (e.g., occupant expectations in pre- and post-occupancy evaluations); and, (iii) Outcomes Gap (e.g., thermal comfort measurements and survey results). We question which of measured or experienced performance is the ‘true’ performance of the built environment. We further identify a “Prediction Paradox”, indicating that it may not be possible to achieve more accurate predictions of building performance at the early design stage. Instead, we propose that Performance Gaps be seen as creative resources, used to improve the resilience of design strategies through continuous monitoring. Full article
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