Evaluating sustainable urban development using urban metabolism indicators in urban design
Journal article, 2018

Urban metabolism is a multi-disciplinary approach to qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate resource flows in urban systems, which aims to provide important insights into the dynamics of cities to make them more ecologically responsible. It has been also introduced into the urban design domain, however most of the attempts concern only tracking of energy and/or material flows to reduce environ- mental impacts by redesigning closed loops in a specific area. The hypothesis of this paper is that the con- cept of urban metabolism, and its indicators, could play an important role in advancing the science and practice related to sustainability in urban design and development. At the moment, however we lack indicators to support evaluation of urban design related decisions from the perspective of urban metab- olism. The aim of this paper is to explore the application of urban metabolism indicators in urban design based on their characteristics. It reviews development periods of the concept and analytical models of ur- ban metabolism, in order to identify crucial urban metabolism indicators for urban design. Next, these ur- ban metabolism indicators are classified regarding type of analytical model, accounting method, indicator type, and indicator level. Finally, several suggestions are offered on how to integrate urban metabolism indicators into urban design. In addition, directions for future research on the topic are discussed.

sustainable urban development

urban metabolism indicator

urban design


Yan Song

Delft University of Technology

Jorge Gil

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Urban Design and Planning

Alexander Wandl

Delft University of Technology

Arjan van Timmeren

Delft University of Technology


1429-7132 (ISSN) 2300-8547 (eISSN)

Vol. 34 5-22

Subject Categories

Architectural Engineering


Environmental Management



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