The Houston Sustainability Indicators project (HSi) was developed to assist with the characterization of sustainable development in Houston using Community Indicators. Several consultation workshops, summits and meetings with experts and advisors, representing several agencies in Houston have been conducted over the past 8 years. HSi sustainability indicators are defined and measured based on a review of best management practices; expert and advisory consultation; and identification of the ‘Big Issues’ representing the aspirations and values of Houstonians. HSi has agreed to track and measure sustainable development in Houston using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are the global sustainability goals adopted by most large countries and cities across the globe. The SDGs are composed of benchmark indicators with a target of 2030. HSi will track Houston’s sustainable development progress towards the 2030 SDG targets.


The framework used to structure the initial HSi indicators was the Theme – Sub-Theme Framework. The Category Framework was also superimposed to ensure balance between the pillars of sustainability. The Theme – Sub-Theme Framework was selected since the City of Houston has no formally identified Goals and Visions, however through review of published media and in expert discussions around development services in Houston, it was possible to identify a list of ‘Themes’ that would represent the ‘Big Ideas’ that Houstonians care about.

The Current HSi indicators are structured using the 17 SDG Goals. The SDG Goals are each composed of a number of Targets and Indicators. Due to data availability and community level validity, our team had to identify indicators that were close to the original SDG indicators and fit the same intent.

The Indicators

The Houston Sustainability Indicators measure development within the municipal boundary of the City of Houston. Indicators were selected to equally address the three pillars of sustainability (Social, Economic, and Environmental Development). Data was collected for the years 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2015. We will be tracking Houston’s sustainability progress -annually- towards the 2030 SDG Targets.

Note: There are a few indicator variations between the city level reports and the district and super neighborhoods reports since some of the indicators in the former report are not applicable to a district or neighborhood type comparison. An example of this is that for the indicator Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions, data was not found at the district or neighborhood level.


In 2004, the Shell Center for Sustainability (SCS) conducted a Scenarios for Houston’s Future* planning workshop. The event was attended by 70 key thinkers and the need for sustainability indicators was first established. Initial work by professors Wil Uecker and Dr. Gary Morris steered the way to identify measures for air quality and greenspace. In 2011, SCS produced the first Indicators report, Measuring City Sustainability: Project Houston. That report compared Houston to a select number of cities in the country with Indicator programs. That same year, Dr. Lester King is assigned the task of advancing the sustainable development indicators project for Houston producing the first citywide report in 2012, Houston Sustainability Indicators Report. An introduction to the 2013 community level Sustainability Report can be viewed here.

The HSi program is currently managed by Dr. David Abraham.

Click to view the HSi Quality of Life Atlas.