Urban Metabolism: From Early Studies to Learning Activities for Sustainable Cities, Urban Planning and Design

AScUS (un)Conference 2021
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Developed as a concept to better understand material and resource flows in cities, urban metabolism was first introduced in the 1960s, and with advancements in the late 1990s to include the wider anthroposphere, urban metabolism studies continue to be developed today and include applications for sustainable urban design, greenhouse gas emissions and policy analysis. A historical review of the early urban metabolism diagrams points to the various ways of tracking material and resource flows, which include some of the early studies of 19th century Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Brussels, as examples. A learning activity in an upper year engineering course that introduces urban metabolism to students, invites them to draw urban metabolism diagrams for cities of their choice to demonstrate current conditions and for future conditions that include population growth by 2050. This learning exercise encourages students to identify linear flows, and introduce resource efficiency, technological innovations and sustainable infrastructure to turn linear flows to circular flows. This discussion topic will review elements of urban metabolism models, including some earlier examples of urban metabolism diagrams, compare current and future diagrams in global cities, and reflect on its application in engineering sustainable cities, and in urban planning and design.


Session Lead: Nadine Ibrahim


Please refer to the attachment to view the agenda for the session. I look forward to your participation.


from your disciplines and fields of research what other tools help us understand cities


Hello. Unfortunately, I have not had a time to attend this session. I think regional input-output databases are useful to understand the cities. However, they often do not available. Their regionalization produces inaccurate data for regional energy, monetary, water, and residuals data represented by input-output tables. Nevertheless, IOA is a very useful tool to understand the cities but limited. Ecological network analysis (ENA) using packages (Matlab, R, or Python) can be useful to capture, indirect energy consumption and GHG emissions (i.e. emission from use of tractors in the agricultural sector). In addition, investments into the construction and management of social services(i.e., water distribution, transportation infrastructure) can be assessed using ENA. ENA can also assess economic, ecological, and even social costs and benefits exchanged among sectors of an urban economy, and much more. ..

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