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Sustainable housing and buildings constitute a fundamental part of the future urban fabric. This study aims at clarifying how different actors employ parameters of sustainability in building design and what enables the holistic perspective of the interrelating social, economic and environmental parameters. Interviews with building developers and designers show that decision support tools are used late in the design process and commonly focused on single parameters of sustainability. The analysis shows how practitioners of the planning and early design phases operate at general levels of geometrical clusters and volumes but must continuously evaluate each project from the perspective of the specifications of end-users and the public, to ensure holistic sustainability. This opposing relationship between need and availability of general and specific data, however, challenges the implementation of holistic sustainability. Advancing the interdisciplinary, holistic building design requires systematic aggregation of data from executed projects of this data into applicable rules-of-thumb. In parallel, future tools for simulation and dialogue must employ a broader scope of sustainability parameters. The conceptual frameworks of data and tools presented in this study can be used as a backdrop for developing sectoral initiatives to enable holistic decisions in the early stages of sustainable building design.