Integrated assessment of urban sustainability

Urban areas are recognised as having a major influence in the drive towards making development more sustainable. Consequently, robust and comprehensive methodologies for the assessment of sustainability in the urban context are essential for urban decision makers such as planners, architects, engineers and managers. This paper describes the method and main findings of a scoping study undertaken by the 'Metrics, Models and Toolkits for Whole Life Sustainable Urban Development' consortium of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's Sustainable Environment Programme in the UK (Sue-MoT) to determine gaps and needs in current urban sustainability assessment tools. The paper also introduces a main programme of research which will address key priorities identified. During the study, 675 tools applicable to the assessment of sustainability in regard to urban developments were identified with 165 of these undergoing evaluations against a series of criteria identified as important for the integrated assessment of urban sustainability. Additionally, stakeholders, including urban decision makers and tool developers, were canvassed on the strengths and weaknesses of current assessment tools and on future user requirements. The results of the work confirmed that there is no tool currently capable of simultaneously covering all assessment criteria but demonstrated the need not for a new tool but for a framework that integrates those that already exist. Consequently, the consortium proposes the development of an integrated sustainability assessment toolkit (ISAT).