Application of “Streamlined” Material Accounting to Estimate Environmental Impact
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Application of “Streamlined” Material Accounting to Estimate Environmental Impact

Authors: Paul Osmond


This paper reports a new application of material accounting techniques to characterise and quantify material stocks and flows at the “neighbourhood" scale. The study area is the main campus of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The system boundary is defined by the urban structural unit (USU), a typological construct devised to facilitate assessment of the metabolism of urban systems. A streamlined material flow analysis (MFA) was applied to quantify the stocks and flows of key construction materials within the campus USU over time, drawing on empirical data from a major campus development project. The results are reviewed to assess the efficacy of the method in supporting urban environmental evaluation and design practice, for example to facilitate estimation of significant impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions. It is concluded that linking a service (in this case, teaching students) enabled by a given product (university buildings) to the amount of materials used in creating that product offers a potential way to reduce the environmental impact of that service, through more efficient use of materials.

Keywords: Construction materials, material flow analysis, urban metabolism, urban structural unit.

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