Nell’ambito del XXX Forum mondiale sullo Sviluppo Economico Locale (Torino, Polo Reale, 14 Ottobre 2015) la Cattedra Unesco in Sviluppo Sostenibile e Gestione del Territorio organizza il workshop

Metabolismo urbano e sviluppo economico locale

albero2Metabolism is an input/output mechanism. It describe the energy turnover or input/output connected to the conversion of matter and energy, an intrinsic feature in the reproduction of any organism. Metabolism it is used also to refer to the regulatory processes that govern this complex interchange between organisms and their environment. If we admit that cities are consumption growth machines we are thrust to define them as complex systems of urban metabolism. It refers to the metabolic processes by which cities transform incoming raw materials, biomass, energy, and water into physical structures, built environment, technical devices, food, waste (Decker et al., 2000) which support a huge amount of reproductive activities performed by their inhabitants. It is also define as the total sum of the technical and socioeconomic processes that occur in cities, resulting in growth, production of energy, and elimination of waste (Kennedy 2007). Someone else might define metabolism as a set of processes taking place in the urban system involving transformation of matter and energy and the transportation of these quantities in such a way that the systems work as an organized entity.

This panels aim to present to the Forum participant methodologies for urban metabolism accountability and to debate urban metabolic indicators.
More specifically it aims to present urban metbolism as:

• a platform for data collection from human settlements;
• tools for regulating urban metabolic process;
• how social agents and decision makers can intervene to modify the urban metabolism processes.



Bin Chen, School of Environment Beijing Normal University

Urbanization is a strong and extensive driver that causes environmental pollution and climate change from local to global scale. Modelling cities as ecosystems has been initiated by a wide range of scientists as a key to addressing challenging problems concomitant with urbanization. In this paper, ‘urban ecosystem metabolism (UEM)’ is defined in an inter-disciplinary context to acquire a broad perception of urban ecological properties and their interactions with global change. Furthermore, state-of-the-art models of urban ecosystems are reviewed, categorized as top-down models (including materials/energy-oriented models and structure-oriented models), bottom-up models (including land use-oriented models and infrastructure-oriented models), or hybrid models thereof. Based on the review of UEM studies, a future framework for explicit UEM is proposed based the integration of UEM approaches of different scales, guiding more rational urban management and efficient emissions mitigation.


Jukka Heinonen, Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Iceland

We currently face an urgent need to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions we are causing. The newest projections say that the sea level is to rise at least six meters even if the two degrees warming target would be met and potentially much more if not. The vast majority of the anthropogenic GHGs are driven by the demand of materials and energy in cities and other human settlements. As a consequence, a lot of research has taken place to understand the drivers of the emissions and to find ways to reduce them. The prevailing thought arising from this research is that higher density is an efficient driver for emissions reductions due to reduced driving and residential energy use. However, these studies are mainly based on sectoral analyses of just either one or these two sectors. They thus fail to capture the feature of our settlements and lifestyles being tied together to a very complex system, where a change in one consumption category is reflected in others, and the actual change in the GHGs often totally something else than seen in a one-sector analysis. Looking at transport patterns, there is strong evidence that if just flying was included into transport analyses, the result would likely be that the reduction of GHGs from driving in denser settlements are compensated or even exceeded with GHGs from increased flying. Regarding residential energy consumption, in multi-story buildings in denser settlements there are a lot of common spaces and their energy requirements are often not taken into account when comparisons of energy requirements are made. And more importantly, living in a dense settlement vs. outside the densest areas is also a trade-off between own living space and easy access to all kinds of service spaces, which is clearly reflected in the lifestyles and the carbon footprints of the residents of different types of areas. As a consequence, it is a very complex task to define which features of a settlement would effectively reduce the GHGs caused by the residents, but only with a comprehensive systemic approach these can be reliably searched for.

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Cattedra UNESCO
in Sviluppo Sostenibile e Gestione del Territorio
Università degli Studi di Torino

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