Methodologies for Tracking Local Sustainable Development

  • Stephen A. Roosa Ph.D., CEM, CSDP, REP, BEP, CMVP
Keywords: Sustainable Development


Strategies that enable sustainability require methodologies for baseline development, measurement and comparison. This article considers methodologies used to track progress toward achieving the sometimes subjective goals associated with sustainability programs. Tracking systems are common for energy, water usage and carbon management but are rare for larger systems. When they are found, they typically use variables which lack statistical significance. While tracking systems devised to assess sustainability for national economies in regard to environmental performance exist, they are rarely designed for institutions, corporations and local governments. Local governments, in particular, often desire to know how their progress toward sustainability goals compares with their peers. Qualitative and quantitative variables, historical data, and peer group comparisons are used as the basis for a sustainability index. This tool can be applied to existing organizations and governmental entities.

Methodologies to track and rank governmental and organizational sustainability are relatively new phenomena. The methodologies available involve data sets using all types of variables. Most involve identifying indicators of sustainability and providing a means of comparison. Linking measurements of energy usage to variables that measure the impact of sustainability policies is one approach.

Using historical data, this article explores selected indicators of sustainability, considers variables that can be measured, and demonstrates how sustainability indices can be developed and interpreted. The process of developing an index by selecting variables and identifying relationships will be discussed in detail. Statistical methodologies will be brought to bear in the analysis to bring credibility to the construction of a sample sustainability index. The index developed will use both qualitative and quantitative variables. Quantitative analysis techniques will be used to interpret the differences and draw conclusions concerning the available data. U.S. Sunbelt cities will be used as examples. The data collected regarding them is used to search for commonalities and differences in their demographic patterns, energy impacts and environmental conditions by analyzing quantitative variables.

Based on the statistical analysis of the selected variables, the available data will be analyzed to demonstrate how conclusions can be drawn regarding the sustainability of cities. A two-group comparison reveals that some cities are more sustainable than others. The results of the analysis are interpreted, indicating that when local policies are directed toward influencing transportation or residential sector energy usage, their policies are likely to be effective and yield fruitful results. Finally, a new theory of divergence is supported indicating that there is a surprising disconnect between rates of policy adoption by cities and energy usage. The probable cause of this divergence is identified.


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Author Biography

Stephen A. Roosa, Ph.D., CEM, CSDP, REP, BEP, CMVP

Stephen A. Roosa is the director of performance services for Paladin, an engineering and commissioning company located in Lexington, Kentucky. His past experience includes energy savings assessments for over 3,500 buildings. His 35-year work history includes energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy projects. He is considered an expert is sustainability and leads corporate workshops and teaches seminars throughout the world in sustainable development and renewable energy.

Dr. Roosa is the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) director of sustainable state and local programs and a past president of AEE. He has been inducted into the Energy Managers Hall of Fame. He is widely published and is the coauthor of Carbon Reduction—Policies, Strategies and Technologies. He is a LEED-AP, a Certified Sustainable Development Professional, a Certified Energy Manager, a Certified Measurement and Verification Professional and a Renewable Energy Professional. He holds a doctorate in planning and urban development, an MBA in business management and a bachelor of architecture degree.


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