Urban Sustainability Index Project

Global Studio  |  2013


The final collective output of the studio shows the parameters that were studied and weighted so as to obtain a sustainability score for each of the 20 cities.


This semester-long studio took a break from designing sustainable skyscrapers, to step back and examine what the term “sustainability” really means, on an urban scale. A simple question was posed: “What contributes most to the sustainability of cities?” If one considers only the environmental sustainability of cities, then the most sustainable city is most likely that which consumes fewer resources and emits fewer pollutants per capita. However, “sustainability” is the equilibrium point of three different aspects: social, economic, and environmental. 

The studio thus started from this point, investigating 20 cities across the world in order to understand “where they are” and “where they are going” in their path toward sustainable development. Each student explored a number of “parameters” that might contribute to the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of the 20 cities. Eventually a set of 13 “parameters” was identified across the group: three parameters related to the economic characteristics of the cities, three related to their social qualities, and seven for their built and natural environment.

Twelve “indicators” were then determined and researched within each of these parameters, with data found or calculated using the most reliable, publicly-available sources. Weighting systems were agreed on by the group, in consultation with the group, to create a ranking system, which determined a final “urban sustainability index” score for each city. The 20 cities were thus ranked from the least sustainable to the most sustainable.