An ecological-thermodynamic approach to urban metabolism: Measuring resource utilization with open system network effectiveness analysis

Cities have evolved as centers of economic growth and often described as open systems where the intake of resources is heavily dependent on flows imported from the external environment. The question is, how much of the resource available in cities is effectively utilized? In response, this paper develops an ecological-thermodynamic approach to assess the ability of a system to make full use of the resources available and reduce the demand for new resources. In this work, open system network effectiveness analysis is introduced as a novel assessment method to investigate the cities’ producer and consumer behaviors by studying the resource flow connections and the interactions between the socio-economic sectors. Investigation on the urban flows network evaluates the ability of the system to utilize the resource imported through the effectiveness of utilization indicator and the ability to convert the resource imported to useful products through the effectiveness of conversion indicator. The effectiveness indicators, utilization and conversion, represent the consumption and production characteristics of the system respectively. This is tested through a case study conducted for Singapore city over the time period 2005–2014. The effectiveness results show that the city, on average, has utilized 45% of the maximum extractable usefulness from the resources imported throughout the years, with the lowest effectiveness, 39%, and the highest effectiveness, 50%, in the years 2007 and 2014 respectively. The trajectory of effectiveness results throughout the years suggests a trade-off relationship between the producers and consumers to balance the production and consumption of resources in the city.

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