Urban sustainability assessment tools: A review

This paper presents a comprehensive review of literature on most widely used urban sustainability assessment tools. The aim of this paper is to understand the similarities and differences in existing urban sustainability assessment tools and identify the gaps so as to find out whether these are capable of and suitable for addressing multiple issues of urban sustainability in multiple contexts, including settlements in diverse geo-climatic and ecologically sensitive regions such as the Himalayan hill regions of India. Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA) is employed in this study to identify various themes/categories associated with various dimensions of sustainability. A total of 2594 articles were selected, of which 105 have been analysed in detail. The research reviews six most widely used urban sustainability assessment tools i.e., Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)for Communities, Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency (CASBEE) for Urban Development, Green Building Index (GBI)for Township, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighbourhood Development that are used in other countries, and Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)for Green Townships and Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) for Large Development which are used in India. Analysis of these assessment tools reveals that most of them view sustainability from different perspectives by laying more emphasis on some aspects like infrastructure and resource management while ignoring others like cultural, business and innovation. The findings of the analysis highlight that certain aspects are given more importance in all the urban sustainability assessment tools reviewed and certain other aspects are given much lower or no consideration in all tools reflecting an incomprehensive understanding of urban sustainability on one hand; most tools reviewed do not address all context-specific aspects on the other. Further, it is observed that these tools are unable to address the complex relationships among various criteria and categories and each criterion is assessed in isolation irrespective of the fact that it can influence or be influenced by other criteria.