Analytical Hierarchy Decision Process
Amidst this myriad of indicators and databases the question is how to
interpret and synthesize these numbers into an overall sustainability
rating. This rating must be supported by a thoughtful, clearly defined
path. The user must be able to justify the interpretation of the data
and the weighting of factors that arrive at a sustainability rating that
will govern future growth and development.
To understand the decision process it is important to
understand what is given (the beginning step) and what is to be obtained
(the final step). The Virtual North Carolina webpage compiles data and
descriptions for sustainability indicators; this data is used to
determine how sustainable a community currently is, the direction it
needs to head to produce a more sustainable region, a guide to embarking
on more efficient and effective methods and practices, and a way to
As sustainability is a vastly broad topic, it has been
sectored into four main areas—human health, environmental quality,
economic vitality, and social justice. These main attributes of
sustainability are broken down into sub-attributes, then into
sub-sub-attributes, continuing until a bottom level of obtainable,
measurable indicators is reached. This website contains the data,
descriptions, and trees connecting the indicators in order for users to
visualize and comprehend the connections. The compilation of this data
is the beginning step in the process (what is given). Furthermore, the
end goal is an accurate, reliable sustainability rating of a region
(what is to be obtained).
The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is the method to
connect the beginning and final steps. AHP is a type of multi-attribute
decision making. This logical, analytical process guides users through
the steps of how to synthesize the criteria, using a simplistic or
complicated mathematical method, to reach an overall rating.
AHP consists of 9 main steps (see
Figure 1): specify the problem, specify the options, specify the
attributes, specify the metrics, specify the weightings, specify the
algorithm, assess the options, rank the options, and select the option.
The AHP serves to arrive at a rational and logical policy
derived from the decisions at each step. If the final option is
disputed, then the policy maker can guide an individual through the
process. An individual cannot refute a policy based upon one’s neglect
to discuss an option, indicator, or weight during the process.
Ultimately, the policies and decisions might not be popular, but they
will be derived from a fair and just process.