A Database to Facilitate a Process-Oriented Approach to Urban Metabolism

In view of urbanization trends coupled with climate-change challenges, it is increasingly important to establish less-harmful means of urban living. To date, urban metabolism (UM) studies have quantified the aggregate material and energy flows into and out of cities and, further, have identified how consumer activity causes these flows. However, little attention has been paid to the networks of conversion processes that link consumer end-use demands to aggregate metabolic flows. Here, we conduct a systematic literature search to assemble a database of 202 urban energy, water, and waste management processes. We show how the database can help planners and policy makers choose the preferred process to meet a specific resource management need; identify synergies between energy, water, and waste management processes; and compute optimal networks of processes to meet an area's consumer demand at minimum environmental cost. We make our database publicly available under an open-source license and discuss the possibilities for how it might be used alongside other industrial ecology data sets to enhance research opportunities. This will encourage more holistic UM analyses, which appreciate how both consumer activity and the engineered urban system work together to influence aggregate metabolic flows and thus support efforts to make cities more sustainable.