The current approaches to studying sustainability uses a triple-bottom line approach that accounts for each of the economic, social and environmental impacts of such system separately without explicitly considering the overall performance of the system. At the same time, there has been a growing movement towards adoption of sustainability standards in transportation with the emergence of rating systems such as EnvisionTM that recognize system robustness and resilience as fundamental to achieving sustainability. As a result, municipal and agency managers, often are left without meaningful operational guidelines that support the prioritization of sustainability as a principle in their long-term planning without compromising on level of service. Hence, the significant problem motivating this research is that currently there are no methods to measure the sustainability of critical infrastructure (such as transportation networks) and natural systems, as a function of systemic robustness and resilience.
In a departure from the triple bottom line thinking, the objective of this research effort is to discover principles of sustainable management that increase the robustness and resilience of integrated systems, based on an acknowledgment of relationships, constraints and margins of tolerance that keep a system stable and viable. In doing so the research will investigate if the sustainability of a system can be formulated as a function of the systemic robustness and resilience.