Despite well-documented examples of urban sustainability practices in Asia, the internal mechanisms of the practices, their transferability, and their impact on urban sustainability transitions are yet to be thoroughly investigated. This paper examines 30 innovative urban practices in Asia from a system innovation and urban environmental evolution perspective, in an attempt to identify common patterns and pathways that can aid up-scaling and thereby broader application of effective sustainability practices. We developed a five-tier framework (e.g. triggers-actors-linkages-barriers-pathways) to explore whether successful broad-scale application was related to patterns within each of the tiers, or whether certain combinations of tiers lead to certain application pathways. Our results indicate the importance of policy changes and cumulative effects; the importance of local government, community and international agencies as main actors; and the prominent role of political and institutional barriers, while technology doesn’t seem to be a major barrier in urban sustainability experiment in Asia. Our results indicate that: those cases that are up-scaled through broader application often have strong vertical linkages with state or national governments; many international development agency initiatives tend to remain as experiments or duplicated elsewhere but are seldom up-scaled to change the system of practice. Nearly half of the innovative practices examined were either mainstreamed or duplicated elsewhere, suggesting that these innovative practices might play important role in sustainability transitions in Asia.