Methodology to Establish Regional Urban Metabolism Energy Baselines Project

An urban metabolism framework can be used to assess urban sustainability. Conventionally, the framework analyzes direct material, energy and waste flows associated with urban environments to understand the consequent energy and environmental impacts of these flows. However, the conventional framework has serious deficiencies if urban metabolism studies are to inform policy—namely the use of highly aggregated data lacking geographic specificity and the the exclusion of life cycle impacts.

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Overview of the Los Angeles County Waste Stream

As part of our Urban Metabolism 2.0 work, the UCLA group has been studying the solid waste stream in Los Angeles County. Quantifying the environmental impacts of this stream requires understanding the complexities of solid waste collection, processing, and disposal—activities which are governed at multiple jurisdictional levels, cross municipal boundaries, and involve hundreds of haulers and facilities. 

Our preliminary understanding of the collection component of the solid waste system is outlined in a posted presented by Dr. Pincetl at the American Geophysical Union Conference in December 2011, available below. This poster also provides a brief explanation of how the Production, Exchange, and Consumption Allocation System (PECAS) model, developed by our collaborators at the University of California Davis, is being utilized to extend urban metabolism to account for the environmental impacts of economic activity occurring within a municipality.

To here to view the poster presented at the American Geophysical Union Conference.

An Overview of Urban Metabolism 2.0

UCLA is collaborating with research partners at Arizona State University, University of California Davis and the Los Angeles Economic Roundtable to develop an updated urban metabolism framework that can measure the energy flows of contemporary cities. This methodology expands on the traditional urban metabolism framework, which is based on material flow analysis.  

Traditional urban metabolism tracks flows into and out of cities at the municipal level; our research uses more granular data to enable analysis at much finer detail – by neighborhood, land-use type, or socioeconomic stratum – providing additional leverage to policy-makers. Dr. Mikhail Chester and Janet Ferrell of ASU developed this overview poster that depicts how data on energy and material flows will be merged with the Production, Exchange, and Consumption Allocation System (PECAS) model and life cycle assessment methodologies to provide expanded understanding of the urban metabolism of cities.

Click here to view the poster

Urban Metabolism Overview and Projects Briefing

PIER Energy in Sustainable Communities Program Presents: How urban metabolism provides a framework for energy assessment – May 24, 2011
Click here to view the presentation.

Energy Baselines – the Urban Metabolism of Los Angeles County

The objective of this project is to create a Community-Wide Energy Use Protocol and comprehensive energy baselines for California communities. These community baselines will be the first to capture direct, indirect, and supply chain energy. Integrating life-cycle accounting offers an assessment of how decisions result in effects within and beyond political borders. The Protocol will combine the PECAS (Production, Exchange and Consumption Allocation System) model with life-cycle assessment (LCA), current socio-economic data, and policy analysis to offer energy and environmental accounting that reaches beyond greenhouse gas emissions to include the social, environmental and economic aspects of energy use. The energy baselines will provide data on California communities’ current energy use patterns that is populated by real time information as well as modeled projections. It will be a platform that can be regularly maintained and updated. Information can be used to assist in the effective implementation of SB 375, develop more targeted energy conservation programs, support local and regional energy and land use planning, and identify land use responses to climate change. This will be overlaid with land use information, enabling the mapping of energy use geographically, by land use and demographic information.

The project is funded both by PIER and by ARRA funds contributed by the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and sustainability, a voluntary organization of local jurisdictions that came together to coordinate planning for long-term sustainability at the county level.  See our powerpoint for an overview of our approach.

PIER Urban Metabolism Roadmap – Toward More Sustainable Community Energy Systems

Presentation by the Center for Sustainable Urban Systems and Center for Climate Change Solutions.

Click here to see the presentation.

Policy Brief: Interactive Electricity Map Of Los Angeles

CCSC has released its first interactive mapping website of electricity use in the City of Los Angeles! As a tool for visualizing and analyzing the energy usage trends within the city, this map brings greater transparency to the discussion of better energy investments, energy efficiency, and public policy.

To learn more about the interactive map, please click here to download the policy brief.


Urban Metabolism Literature Review – Winter 2012

This literature review surveys the various conceptual and empirical studies associated with performance systems based research on urban flows. The review discusses the implications of these studies to larger research and policy questions to highlight points of convergence as well as areas of debate and opportunities for further research.

Please click here to view the full report.


Avoiding Unintended Tradeoffs by Integrating Life-cycle Impact Assessment with Urban Metabolism

A new article by Dr. Mikhail Chester, Dr. Stephanie Pinctel and Dr. Braden Allenby was recently published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.  The article argues that urban sustainability assessment should integrate urban metabolism and life-cycle impact assessment to develop an integrated multi-scale framework for evaluating resource depletion and damages to human health and environmental quality.

Click here to view the article.