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Assessing the environmental sustainability of the urban ecosystem using Material Flow Analysis: the case of Riyadh housing stock

Albelwi, Naif 2019. Assessing the environmental sustainability of the urban ecosystem using Material Flow Analysis: the case of Riyadh housing stock. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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In 2018, 55% of the global population resided in urban areas, and it is predicted that by 2050 this percentage will reach 68%. The consumption of materials, energy, and water resources is an inextricable consequence of population growth. This is especially apparent in urban areas, where there are significant investments in infrastructure to support urban development. Cities experiencing rapid growth face tremendous challenges, not only in providing the services required, but also to assure that development is sustainable. Urban material flow analysis (MFA) is becoming a popular framework. It links the interaction between urban activities and the environment, by quantifying the material flows that go into the urban system and the impacts of the use of resources, such as air pollution, and solid waste. To date, MFA has primarily focused on accounting for the annual direct mass and energy flows throughout the city. Therefore, it does not form a proper basis for assessing environmental sustainability within an urban system. Contrary to the MFA methodology, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology not only examines mass, direct material and energy exchanges with the environment, but also provides a cradle-to-grave assessment of resource use and environmental impacts from a life cycle perspective. With high rate of urban population growth, massive investments in infrastructure are needed and proposed to support urban development. Unfortunately, integrative, systemlevel tools are lacking for urban planners and decision-makers to assess the environmental sustainability of urban development. This thesis proposes an expanded MFA framework synthesizing additional critical urban indicators; including biophysical (i.e., land use) and socio-economic indicators. The aim being to extend MFA beyond an accounting framework, and towards a strategic planning framework. It also outlines the role of LCA in assessing urban flows, and in the evaluation of urban development scenarios, as significant changes currently being made to support 2050 urban infrastructure. The proposed framework involved three consecutive stages. The first stage evaluated the potential use of MFA to assess the sustainability of urban systems. It involved a systemic review to evaluate how MFA can offer system-based perspectives from which to understand the interaction between the urban system and the surrounding environment. After this, MFA was applied to the domestic sector of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, based on a set of indicators suggested by the literature. The years selected for analysis were 1996, 2006, and 2016 due to data availability. Temporal trends of resource consumption were established and results reported as gross values and on a per capita basis, to create clarity of understanding around the trends. The embodied energy and environmental impact of each MFA component was assessed using the LCA v method. The environmental impacts were classified into five categories: climate change, particulate matter formation, freshwater ecotoxicity, water consumption potential, and fossil fuel potential. The second stage was motivated by studying the long-term impact of the built environment. A dynamic model of the in-use stock based on MFA was developed in this stage, thereby extending the model to include in-use services. The foundation of the analysis was the floor area devoted to housing stock. The input parameters of the model were based on socioeconomic indicators, and intensity factors (e.g., floor area per capita, energy use intensity). Then, LCA was introduced to the model to assess GHG emissions associated with energy (stationary/mobile) and water demands. The rationale was that with a clearer understanding of the impacts associated with resource demand, wellinformed decisions can be made to address any increases in GHG emissions. The third stage extended the scope of the analysis to include assessment of climate change mitigation policies. Initially, it reviewed current initiatives in Saudi Arabia to address the issue of climate change. Then, a set of mitigation policies were identified, and the impact of each policy investigated, and results reported against a base-scenario. The results at each stage helped provide insights into the impact of the built environment in the context of Saudi Arabia. They also demonstrated that the proposed integrative approach can be used to quantify and assess urban flows, while conceptualizing the social and economic characteristics of the city. The findings emphasised that the framework combining stock dynamic and LCA can play a significant role in assisting the formulation of policies related to urban sustainability and climate change mitigation. Although the assessment was limited in its scope, the results afford a strong foundation for future holistic assessment

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Engineering
Uncontrolled Keywords: Material Flow Analysis; Life Cycle Assessment; Urban Material Flow Analysis; Environmental Sustainability Assessment; Climate Change and developing countries; The environmental impacts of urban development.
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 August 2020
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2020 11:12

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