Difficulties with operationalising the concept of sustainable development have generated much debate, and have stimulated a good deal of research on the challenging task of assessing progress towards that goal. This paper focuses on quality of life, as one discourse in the sustainable development literature, and reports on the development and testing of an operational framework for the assessment of quality of life in an urban setting. Core principles of sustainable development are translated into a set of operational criteria for investigating quality of life. The process of formulating these criteria and the manner in which they may be linked to policy and practice are outlined. The application of the framework is demonstrated by reference to the experience of implementing it in an urban centre in Ireland. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.