District-Scale Sustainability

Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute collaborated with the US Green Building Council to conduct a study on sustainability indicators of neighborhood and district scale sustainability planning frameworks, looking at both US based and international community examples. The project, carried out during the spring 2012 semester, aimed at gaining a better understanding of existing sustainability frameworks and their scope.

The six frameworks that we analyzed were:

The research evaluated the frameworks based on the type of framework, the sustainability goals defined, the scale of the impact, the target audience, the structure, the requirements, the process, and the scope of implementation.


Analysis of sustainability principles: the diagram highlights corresponding sustainability concepts across frameworks


Sustainability indicators measured for each framework

While the first three frameworks noted above are practical guides and rating systems for building and developing environmentally responsible neighborhoods, the other ones offer general guidance for directing sustainability planning for local governments and neighborhood stakeholders. For each of the six programs, we developed individual profiles providing details about their design and implementation, and created a comparative matrix of sustainability indicators and a list of technology examples that communities are using or could potentially use to support these district scale frameworks. This study will serve as a foundation for future research by the MI and the USGBC.