Standards are ubiquitous throughout the field of urban planning. From the development standards of municipal codes of ordinances to emissions reporting standards of federal statutes, both planners and the municipalities they serve are in many ways shaped both by what is contained within these standards and what is omitted from them. Similarly, planners and the municipalities they serve are affected (for better or worse) by what is and is not standardized.

A glaring exception in the ubiquity of standards in the planning profession are those applicable to data, particularly the way that data is structured and interpreted. Metadata specifications, as they are called, are essential to planners’ ability to mobilize growing caches of information about the social and the built environment and apply them to improve planning practice.



Whether you're a data newbie or a data wonk, this year's Hackathon has something for everyone.

The Challenge

Data specifications help solve coordination problems between actors. For instance, in planning, data specifications help cities maintain parcel records, allowing people to access accurate information about properties. Data specifications also help coordinate transit schedules across jurisdictions and between applications.

For this challenge, propose a new lightweight data standard or modify an existing specification to enable planners to measure and compare metrics for sustainable development between municipalities. This data specification should address either one or all of the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, economic. It can also focus on specific issues of sustainable development such as equity or resilience, and economic development.


Show your proposed data specification in action! Develop a proof of concept for how the proposed data specification can be applied in practice by using it to compare metrics for sustainable development between at least two municipalities.


Projects may be completed by individuals or teams of up to 5. If you would like to compete as a team, please email Lian Plass with a list of your team members before November 30th.


Submit an 800 to 2,000-word summary of the proposed standard using this submission form. Summaries should include:

  • Explanation of rationale for developing or selecting your standard (what is the problem you are trying to solve?)
  • Explanation of the proposed standard (reasons for variable selection, hierarchy, format, etc.)
  • Discussion of potential use cases for the proposed standard
  • A data structure diagram
  • Description of the schema containing variable names, variable definitions, data types/formats, parent variables (if any), any other relevant characteristics of the input data:

More about the optional proof of concept submission

The proof of concept submission is fairly open-ended. Participants are free to choose how to represent their proposed data standards, including through interactive maps, websites or Wikis, PowerPoints and recorded presentations. In your submission consider including your rationale for selecting the chosen municipalities for comparison, a copy of the resulting datasets, a few observations or descriptive statistics from those datasets, any documentation explaining processing methodology, and a copy of or link to your source data.

Acceptable submission formats: PDF upload (10 MB max), website link, other

* If your submission falls into the "Other" format category, contact Lian Plass at lianplass@gmail.com for submission instruction



Best Overall: $200

Best in Category*: $50

* Categories are (1) applicability, (2) feasibility, and (3) comprehensiveness. See also evaluation criteria below.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Applicability - How relevant is the proposed standard to planning practice?
  • Feasibility - How easy is it to integrate this standard into existing systems (planning and otherwise)?
  • Comprehensiveness - How well does the summary and proof of concept address the challenge?

Important Dates:

  • November 1, 2022 - Hackathon commences
  • November 31, 2022 - Hackathon concludes
  • December 12, 2022 - Results available online