Patterns of growth and development impact our environmental, social, economic and cultural quality of life. In order to take steps toward sustainable development that will have a positive impact on these effects, the research team worked with The McKnight Foundation to assess and finalize a set of sustainability principles. The starting point was the "livability principles" established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT): 1) provide more transportation choices; 2) promote equitable, affordable housing; 3) enhance economic competitiveness; 4) support existing communities; 5) coordinate and leverage government policies and investment; and 6) value communities and neighborhoods. The alignment of efforts across all principles was also assessed.
Using these sustainability principles, the study team developed a list of performance indicators and measures, taking into account the need to have measures that are valid, reliable, operate at different scales, and are replicable. A focus group event engaged practitioners in generating ideas on indicators, measures and data sources. Using input from the focus group event, the research team assessed the quality, reliability, validity, scale, and availability of the identified data sources and proposed an analysis plan for future development of baseline measures. An advisory group consisting of stakeholders and regional planning professionals provided input and guidance throughout the duration of the project.