Overcoming the “black box” approach of urban metabolism

  • YEAR
    Athanassiadis, Aristide
    Crawford, Robert H
    Bouillard, Philippe
    2015 Conference Papers
    Built Environment Performance Assessment
    Conference Papers


Urban areas cover 2% of the Earth’s land surface, while hosting more than half of the global population and are estimated to account for around three quarters of CO2 emissions from global energy use. In order to mitigate existing and future direct and indirect environmental pressures resulting from urban resource use, it is necessary to investigate and better understand resource and pollution flows associated with urban systems. Urban Metabolism (UM) is an urban environmental assessment framework that measures resource and pollution flows that enter and exit urban systems. However, UM presents an important shortcoming, namely its “black box” approach. Indeed, standalone, UM figures are not enough to explain why they are specific and exclusive to a city and whether this city is heading towards a more sustainable state. In this study, four transversal aspects that attempt to overcome this “black box” approach are presented. These additional layers of understanding include temporal evolution, spatialisation and disaggregation, identification of resource use and pollution drivers and finally the indirect resource use and pollution emissions that occur outside of the urban boundaries.


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