How to evaluate the sustainable performance of a complex urban system remains a much debated subject. In this sense, urban planning questions present many characteristics of the confusing decision contexts that arise with the management of sustainable development. Recent tools for assessing the sustainable performance of urban neighbourhoods have focussed on delivering a distinct score, obviously for reasons of benchmarking, communicative impact or marketing. However, these unequivocal scores partially hide or even confuse the complex quantitative–qualitative trade-offs that are needed to arrive at a judgement. This paper describes an alternative approach whereby quantitative measuring and qualitative assessments are combined. The resulting evaluation is primarily intended as a compass for reflexive governance, rather than as a sustainability label. The methodological basis for the instrument is derived from the theory of modal aspects, as formulated by the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. An indicator set and corresponding value functions are created, taking into account the expertise that can be found in many existing indicator systems. Performance thresholds, a new type of radar diagram and an argumentation are added to complete the assessment. Two instances of application are subsequently discussed. This allows observing the utility of the tool in a given context of both data and policy uncertainties. It appears that, even with many such uncertainties remaining, a useful strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis can be performed. The necessity of properly addressing sustainable functioning from the very early planning stages is thereby confirmed.
assessment, indicator system, multimodal system analysis, neighbourhood, radar diagram, sustainable urban development
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