Introducing Spatial Variability to the Impact Significance Assessment
Book chapter, 2018

The concept of Circular Economy has gained momentum during the last decade. Yet unsustainable circular systems can also create unintended social, economic and environmental damage. Sustainability is highly dependent on a system’s geographical context, such as location of resources, cultural acceptance, economic, environmental and transport geography. While in some cases an impact of the proposed change may be considered equally significant under all circumstances (e.g. increase of carbon emissions as a main contributor to the global climate change), many impacts may change both their direction and the extent of significance dependent on their context (e.g. land consumption may be positively evaluated if applied to abandoned territories or negatively if a forest needs to be sacrificed). The geographical context, (i.e. its sensitivity, vulnerability or potential) is commonly assessed by Spatial Decision Support Systems. However, currently those systems typically do not perform an actual impact assessment as impact characteristics stay constant regardless of location. Likewise, relevant Impact Assessment methods, although gradually becoming more spatial, assume their context as invariable. As a consequence, impact significance so far is also a spatially unvarying concept. However, current technological developments allow to rapidly record, analyse and visualise spatial data. This article introduces the concept of spatially varying impact significance assessment, by reviewing its current definitions in literature, and analysing to what extent the concept is applied in existing assessment methods. It concludes with a formulation of spatially varying impact significance assessment for innovation in the field of impact assessment.

Impact significance assessment


Spatial decision support

Spatial differentiation

Impact significance determination


Rusne Sileryte

Delft University of Technology

Jorge Gil

Delft University of Technology

Alexander Wandl

Delft University of Technology

Arjan van Timmeren

Delft University of Technology

Geospatial Technologies for All. AGILE 2018

978-3-319-78207-2 (ISBN)

Subject Categories

Environmental Management

Environmental Analysis and Construction Information Technology

Information Science



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