Spatial infrastructure sustainability assessment framework using multi-criteria analysis

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Liu, Mengmeng
Frost, J. David
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The world's natural resources are presently under increasing pressure and humanity is facing multiple sustainable challenges. Sustainability is the only way to resolve these challenges simultaneously, and it has become a prominent concept in societal and political discourses around the world and serves as a major guideline for political actions and future societal development. However, in order to help decision makers (policy makers) determine which actions should or should not be taken in an attempt to make our society sustainable or to assess the efficiency of actions engaged, a sustainability assessment framework is needed to evaluate the sustainability of proposed projects or plans in short-term and long-term perspectives. In this thesis, the author proposes a spatial sustainability assessment framework, which integrates Driving force-Pressure-State-Impacts-Response (DPSIR), Triple-Bottom-Line (TBL) analysis, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and stakeholder-based methods. The framework can make full use of the advantages of each method and provides a scientific and comprehensive method to spatially assess the sustainability of infrastructure at different spatial and temporal scales. The framework has components to define sustainability assessment objectives, to select indicators, to calculate the value of some indicators, to conduct multi-criteria decision analysis (pre-analysis, weighting, and aggregation of indicators), to evaluate the uncertainty and sensitivity of the assessment results, and to visualize sustainability evaluation results in multiple ways. It engages policymakers and other participants in the process of sustainability evaluation, by letting them set the weight of indicators with the help of the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) or Principle Component Analysis (PCA). Besides, there is a spatial database to manage the data, indicators and other information used during the process of sustainability assessment. The framework is fully data-driven and is a general framework which can be easily adapted and used in other disciplines and other application areas. The proposed framework is implemented as a plugin in QGIS, named “Spatial Sustain Assess”. All the functions provided in QGIS can be used seamlessly in the framework. The framework provides various tools to help conduct sustainability assessment, including network analysis, spatial statistical analysis, comparison analysis, aggregation of attributes to a larger scale, pre-analysis of indicators (normalization, correlation, PCA), AHP, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis, data explorations, and multiple visualizations. It also provides a “wizard” to guide users conducting a sustainability assessment of their projects, step by step. As an application of the “Spatial Sustain Assess” plugin, the author uses it to evaluate the sustainability performance of moving interstates within the Atlanta Perimeter (I-285) underground.
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