Modelling urban metabolism (WP 2)

Decisions made in urban planning have an important impact on the sustainability of Europe’s cities. A dynamic, spatially explicit model of urban metabolism – which will be developed within SUME – can enable planners and other decision-making actors to approximate the changes in urban structure and how they will effect future material and energy flows. That is to say, the present structure of most major European cities is not the result of continuous planning efforts but many times of uncontrolled development processes.

The proposed urban metabo­lism model can take this particular situation into account. It allows not only for the assessment of material and energy flows but also of stocks and their specific contribution to the urban metabolic throughput across space and time. Based on this knowledge of environmental impacts, future planning and restructuring within a city can be more precisely targeted at sustainability.

Stocks and flows concept within the SUME project

Stocks and flows concept within the SUME project

However, urban planning for sustainability is clearly not simply making decisions that lead to the reduction of material and energy throughput. Instead, urban planners and other relevant actors face a number of explicit and implicit constraints under which they must make their decisions. The proposed urban metabolism model proposes to integrate these circumstances into the analyses of possible trajectories of urban development by combining the accounting of stocks and flows with an agent-based approach.

In order to develop such a model, it is necessary to pull together what currently seem to be the loose ends in urban metabolism research into a joint European fabric: On the one hand, we can build upon the research up to date and make use of the associated empirical findings. On the other hand, making urban metabolism assessment into a powerful decision-making tool requires strong cooperation between the urban planning and the social metabolism communities.

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Impact of (future) urban forms and structures on use of resources and energy (WP 3)