Sustainable Urban Metabolism

Sustainable Urban Metabolism

Paulo Ferrão
John E. Fernández
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 264
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Sustainable Urban Metabolism
    Book Description:

    Urbanization and globalization have shaped the last hundred years. These two dominant trends are mutually reinforcing: globalization links countries through the networked communications of urban hubs. The urban population now generates more than eighty percent of global GDP. Cities account for enormous flows of energy and materials -- inflows of goods and services and outflows of waste. Thus urban environmental management critically affects global sustainability. In this book, Paulo Ferrão and John Fernández offer a metabolic perspective on urban sustainability, viewing the city as a metabolism, in terms of its exchanges of matter and energy. Their book provides a roadmap to the strategies and tools needed for a scientifically based framework for analyzing and promoting the sustainability of urban systems. Using the concept of urban metabolism as a unifying framework, Ferrão and Fernandez describe a systems-oriented approach that establishes useful linkages among environmental, economic, social, and technical infrastructure issues. These linkages lead to an integrated information-intensive platform that enables ecologically informed urban planning. After establishing the theoretical background and describing the diversity of contributing disciplines, the authors sample sustainability approaches and tools, offer an extended study of the urban metabolism of Lisbon, and outline the challenges and opportunities in approaching urban sustainability in both developed and developing countries.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31695-8
    Subjects: Technology, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    We live in a world that is perceived to be rapidly changing, altering ways of living and disturbing a general sense of stability. This seems partly due to the increasingly complex interactions between economic, social, and environmental dynamics resulting from a cacophony of competing societal interests at the global scale. Many are considering the need to address these vertiginous changes in the way we are organized and interact with each other so that we may protect our wonderful, long-lasting, and unique habitat, our planet Earth.

    If we try to identify the main drivers for changes having taken place during the...

  5. I Urban Metabolism:: Defining a Field
    • 1 Industrial Ecology: A Metaphor for Sustainable Development
      (pp. 3-22)

      Urban systems are increasingly becoming the locus of consumption and engines of economic growth in a globalized world, which everyday sees more people flowing from rural areas to cities. This movement contributes to separate humans from nature and eventually for us to lose the sense of the limits to growth, which is inherent to ecosystems, the basis for the natural world sustainability.

      The global ecosystem relies mostly on solar energy inputs while operating with material cycles and energy cascades, and this constitutes the metaphor that provides the intellectual framework for industrial ecology. Industrial ecology combines a metaphor with a set...

    • 2 Urban Metabolism: Resource Consumption of Cities
      (pp. 23-42)

      Urbanization has been a driving force throughout human history, culminating today in what many believe will be a historic urban twenty-first century. A timeless consequence of the steadily increasing urbanization of civilization has been the associated erosion of our natural capital and the now global draw on every kind of useful resource. Studies now indicate that the past century was extraordinarily proficient in extracting resources that have fueled the transition from a world consuming renewable materials to one that requires nonrenewable metals and minerals to build up our urban infrastructure and building stock. The rapid urbanization of enormous numbers of...

    • 3 Intellectual Foundations and Key Insights
      (pp. 43-64)

      The effort to provide a comprehensive understanding of the contemporary city has understandably become highly multidisciplinary. This is a positive development for an area of study that requires ecological, environmental, and economic studies informed by a vast array of subdisciplines and distinct methodologies. Given this intellectual diversity, endeavoring to understand the current state of progress toward sustainable cities is challenging. Therefore, it is useful to survey the disciplines currently involved in the study of cities directly and indirectly and examine their respective interests as well as the relationships between them. This chapter undertakes the task of identifying those fields most...

  6. II Industrial Ecology:: A Framework
    • 4 Industrial Ecology: A Framework of Tools and Practices
      (pp. 67-96)

      The industrial ecology toolbox is aimed at providing a framework of methods and metrics to address the variety of dimensions and length scales required to understand urban metabolism. These range from micro to macro in three major dimensions: socioeconomic, environmental, and time. This framework will enable a better understanding of the contributions, limitations, and complementarities of the main tools and metrics to be analyzed. These include:

      Economic input-output methodsEIO methods are based in economic input-output tables that describe trade—sale and purchase relationships—between different economic sectors in a given country or region. The EIO methods were developed by...

    • 5 Industrial Ecology as a Framework for a Sustainable Urban Metabolism
      (pp. 97-112)

      The industrial ecology metaphor is used to inform the formulation of sustainable urban governance strategies, through the definition of roadmaps designed as a set of sequential and complementary steps that are discussed in this chapter. This is combined with the DPSIR framework of indicators, which constitutes a unique tool for policy making, by providing a model that facilitates the understanding of complex interactions between drivers, their actions, and impacts and the responses that may improve urban sustainability.

      The first urban systems were a creation of communities that became sedentary by dominating the techniques of farming and by domesticating animals. This...

  7. III Sustainable Urban Systems
    • 6 Green Urban Policies and Development
      (pp. 115-134)

      The development and implementation of policies aimed at promoting sustainable cities has accelerated in direct response to the intensification of the need for practical strategies to increase the resource efficiency of contemporary cities. Green city initiatives, urban environmental action plans, solar and renewable city goals, zero energy and carbon emissions developments—all are indicative of a frenetic interest in promoting the transformation and growth of sustainable urban zones. Despite the intense interest and significant financial and intellectual resources directed toward these efforts, it is clear that these policies have been created and implemented within a context of incomplete understanding of...

    • 7 Urban Typologies: Prospects and Indicators
      (pp. 135-152)

      As cities have adopted the priorities of resource efficiency, focus has shifted toward ways to monitor progress and define success. Accompanying the proliferation of green city initiatives described in chapter 6, there has also been a great deal of work to formulate useful metrics of urban sustainability. The result has been the formulation and compilation of urban sustainability indicators: specific quantitative and qualitative measures of every aspect of urban sustainability. Aside from the obvious need to track progress or the lack thereof, these efforts are also meant to establish a robust and scientifically sound basis upon which generic indices can...

    • 8 Complexity and Dynamics of Urban Systems
      (pp. 153-164)

      This chapter will review the characteristics of complex urban systems and briefly introduce the fundamentals of system dynamics for the purpose of illustrating productive applications of the conceptual framework and methodological process in the assessment of urban resource-consumption behavior. The approach, while dependent on the individual decisions of members of households and directors of companies, will be taken at a macroscopic level—integrating the effect that policies and technologies have on a variety of related, but unlike elements of the urban context.

      Cities are, and have always been, the most complex artifacts of human culture and civilization. No other single...

    • 9 Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Urban Metabolism
      (pp. 165-186)

      As populations in urban areas increase, urban planners and local governments are more focused to reduce the pressure on natural resource consumption by making use of more informed decision-making processes. This requires better access to more complex data representative of the sustainability challenges under a systems approach, and this can only be provided by a new framework of models integrating the different dimensions of urban issues.

      Although this integrated approach is not yet available, this chapter offers a conceptual framework, including industrial ecology–oriented models, that may guide future model development under an urban systems–integrated perspective.

      This chapter proposes...

  8. IV Mapping and Assessing Urban Metabolism
    • 10 Urban Metabolism in Practice: Case Studies from Developed Countries
      (pp. 189-202)

      This chapter is organized in two sections. The first analyzes some of the studies available to characterize the urban metabolism of different urban areas characteristic of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, most of them based on material flow analysis. It is concluded that there are no harmonized methodologies that may facilitate the establishment of a comparison and benchmarking for different regions, and this constitutes the motivation for providing a detailed methodological development for the Lisbon case study, whose results are also analyzed in the context of a developed country capital.

      In the OECD countries, studies about material...

    • 11 The Challenge of Urban Metabolism in a Developing Context
      (pp. 203-222)

      The developing world will be host to a majority of the world’s future urbanization. Challenges facing these cities will include providing urban residents with the critical resources necessary for humane urban living, while striving to address climate change and resource constraints. As a result, many of the cities in the developing world will find it difficult to participate in the global green city movement, because any significant commitment to participation will likely fall outside of their central mandate to provide basic services for their citizens. The challenges facing cities in the developing world, such as poverty, slum growth, crime, and...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 223-224)

    Urban metabolism is a multifaceted framework in the form of a metaphor. As a metaphor, it provides a rich conceptual basis for understanding urban activities in terms of the complex flows of global resources mobilized to support them. As a methodological framework, urban metabolism provides a powerful set of tools for analyzing these flows and providing pathways toward sustainable socioeconomic structures.

    Urbanization, though greatly accelerated during our fossil-fueled era, has been a hallmark of human civilization as people explored the Earth, settled in ever-larger organized groups and established the first global trade networks. The symbiosis of globalization and urbanization has...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 225-226)
  11. References
    (pp. 227-240)
  12. Index
    (pp. 241-244)