Spatial analysis of urban material stock with clustering algorithms: A Northern European case study
Journal article, 2019

A large share of construction material stock (MS) accumulates in urban built environments. To attain a more sustainable use of resources, knowledge about the spatial distribution of urban MS is needed. In this article, an innovative spatial analysis approach to urbanMS is proposed. Within this scope, MSindicators are defined at neighborhood level and clusteredwith k-mean algorithms. The MS is estimated bottom-up with (a) material-intensity coefficients and (b) spatial data for three built environment components: buildings, road transportation, and pipes, using sevenmaterial categories. The city of Gothenburg, Sweden is used as a case study. Moreover, being the first case study in Northern Europe, the results are explored through various aspects (material composition, age distribution, material density), and, finally, contrasted on a per capita basis with other studies worldwide.

The stock is estimated at circa 84 million metric tons. Buildings account for 73% of the stock, road transport 26%, and pipes 1%. Mineral-binding materials take the largest share of the stock, followed by aggregates, brick, asphalt, steel, and wood. Per capita, the MS is estimated at 153 metric tons; 62 metric tons are residential, which, in an international context, is a medium estimate. Denser neighborhoodswith a mix of nonresidential and residential buildings have a lower proportion of MS in roads and pipes than low-density single-family residential neighborhoods. Furthermore, single-family residential neighborhoods cluster in mixed-age classes and show the largest content of wood. Multifamily buildings cluster in three distinct age classes, and each represent a specific material composition of brick, mineral binding, and steel. Future work should focus on megacities and contrasting multiple urban areas and, methodologically, should concentrate on algorithms,MS indicators, and spatial divisions of urban stock.

built environment

urban form

bottom-up method

material intensity

geospatial data

construction materials


Paul Gontia

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Water Environment Technology

Liane Thuvander

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Architectural theory and methods

Babak Ebrahimi

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Building Technology

Victor Vinas

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Water Environment Technology

Leonardo Rosado

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Water Environment Technology

Holger Wallbaum

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Building Technology

Journal of Industrial Ecology

1088-1980 (ISSN) 1530-9290 (eISSN)

Vol. 23 6 1328-1343

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Other Environmental Engineering

Environmental Sciences



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