Limitations in assessment methodologies of neighborhood sustainability assessment tools: A literature review

Ayyoob Sharifi, Ayotunde Dawodu, Ali Cheshmehzangi

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Along with the increasing recognition of the significance of the neighborhood level for achieving urban sustainability, many Neighborhood Sustainability Assessment (NSA) tools have been developed over the past decade or so. The broad aims of these tools are to guide and promote sustainable planning and design, and to recognize/certify best practice cases. Since the late 2000's, many articles related to diffident aspect of NSA tools have been published. Through reviewing these articles, this study seeks to identify major methodological limitations that may undermine NSA tools’ ability to promote sustainability. Nine major categories of methodological limitations were identified. These are, namely, limited and unbalanced coverage of sustainability dimensions, top-down and non-transparent approaches, limited consideration of context-specific issues, rigidity and prescriptiveness of design measures, lack of measures to ensure that basic sustainability requirements are met, lack of agreement between different assessment methodologies provided by different tools, limited consideration of interlinkages between indicators, limited consideration of boundary linkages, and the complexity of the assessment tool. In addition to discussing these limitations, this study provides recommendations that can inform tool developers of measures that could be taken to develop tools that are better capable of promoting sustainable development principles. An important issue, however, is that addressing all limitations simultaneously may be challenging due to trade-offs that may emerge between the recommended actions. It is, therefore, essential to develop methods for dealing with such trade-offs. Since the reported evidence is mainly related to a few tools, the study concludes by suggesting that more research on the methodological limitations of all the forty tools identified in this analysis is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102739
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Assessment methods
  • BREEAM communities
  • Limitations
  • Neighborhood sustainability assessment tools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Transportation


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