University of Twente Student Theses


Neighbourhood Sustainability Assessment as Decision Support Tool for Urban Planning

Ramirez Rincon, C.A. (2019) Neighbourhood Sustainability Assessment as Decision Support Tool for Urban Planning.

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Abstract:Increasingly, urban sustainability assessment is called to steer urban planning and decision-making. Nonetheless, several issues related to Sustainability, such as its diverse conceptual roots and the complexity of human and physical systems exacerbated by institutional fragmentation, have hindered its applicability and operationalization. As a result, there are difficulties for unequivocally defining what needs to be assessed and finding a shared understanding of the outcomes and the assessment. Furthermore, existing Neighbourhood Sustainability Assessment (NSA) tools ache from the lack of legitimacy and transparency, as a result of fixed evaluation criteria and inflexible implementation. Therefore, this research project aims to develop an NSA Framework, capable of reflecting on the specific context in which it is intended to be applied, as well as the values and priorities from the involved actors in the decision-making process. Following the engineering cycle composed by three phases i.e. Problem Investigation, Artefact Design and Validation, the research project built over the values and priorities within a Dutch municipal context as a means to acquire insights on the influence of institutional factors in the inclusion of sustainability in urban development. Furthermore, it revealed that the inclusion of sustainability targets in built environment development is not only dependent on the existence of the suitable tools, but also on several elements such as the lack of integration inside and among organizations, the lack of collaborative approaches, the lack of financial resources and behavioural aspects, among which the lack of leadership and unwillingness to break with the status quo are examples . Moreover, municipal institutions are bound to political agendas which are normally guided by short-term objectives and often conflicting with the long-term vision of sustainability. Conversely, the conceptual model for the framework was benchmarked over state-of-the-art National Rating Systems and guided by a 4-dimensional sustainability model covering Institutional concerns on top of the traditional triple bottom line: Economy, Society and Environment. By doing so, a holistic approach is reached, where decision-makers can define the prioritization and importance of each evaluation area. Furthermore, the model allows different indicators to be linked to each evaluation area and to reflect on the particular conditions where it needs to be applied. These considerations lend legitimacy to the decision-making process and increase the transparency of the outcomes. In summary, the research project allowed the definition of a conceptual sustainability assessment model designed to include contextual information into the evaluation, thereby reflecting the concerns of the involved decision-makers. Moreover, the project explored the institutional factors that can enable or hinder the integration of such framework in urban planning practices. These facts are of high practical relevance for Municipal authorities, as they are characterized by uncoordinated and inflexible organisational structures which might need to undergo substantial changes to enable them to benefit from the potential of the use of such tools.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Construction Management and Engineering MSc (60337)
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