Framework for Sustainable Communities

The APWA Framework for Sustainable Communities is a one-page tool designed and produced by the Center for Sustainability to help decision makers make economical and responsible choices regarding public works infrastructure issues within the community. Making sustainable decisions means making long term, fiscally and socially responsible decisions. The APWA Framework for Sustainable Communities is simple yet powerful tool to help assess the risk regarding these decisions.

The Framework is based on three key dimensions:

  1. The five distinct sustainable community needs to assure a balanced/sustainable outcome:  ecology, economy, empowerment, efficiency and health.
  2. S.W.O.T.: For any given action considered, there are Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
  3. The Traffic Signal (Red, Yellow, Green). This dimension provides an indicator for how well a particular action satisfies a sustainable community need.


There are many potential uses for this framework.  The three below are most common:

  1. To optimize not compromise. Asking the five questions will help an individual or group think through an issue and formulate an outcome that is even more sustainable. And when outcomes are sustainable, they contribute to the health of our communities.
  2. To select the most sustainable option. While considering a variety of alternatives or pathways, the framework will help weigh the pros and cons and guide the most sustainable decision.
  3. To identify key issues. Identify issues that are potential hurdles or enhancements as well as areas that could hinder or foster project success.

 Framework for Sustainable Communities form

 Interactive/Fillable version of form



The Framework for Sustainable Communities combines two sustainability models currently in use. The five need categories come from Gwen Hallsmith's 2003 book The Key to Sustainable Cities.  The three dimensions come from the City of Olympia, Washington's Sustainable Action Map (SAM) created in 2006 through a partnership between the City and The Evergreen State College.