Optimizing Urban Material Flows and Waste Streams in Urban Development through Principles of Zero Waste and Sustainable Consumption
Beyond energy efficiency, there are now urgent challenges around the supply of resources, materials, energy, food and water. After debating energy efficiency for the last decade, the focus has shifted to include further resources and material efficiency. In this context, urban farming has emerged as a valid urban design strategy, where food is produced and consumed locally within city boundaries, turning disused sites and underutilized public space into productive urban landscapes and community gardens. Furthermore, such agricultural activities allow for effective composting of organic waste, returning nutrients to the soil and improving biodiversity in the urban environment. Urban farming and resource recovery will help to feed the 9 billion by 2050 (predicted population growth, UN-Habitat forecast 2009). This paper reports on best practice of urban design principles in regard to materials flow, material recovery, adaptive re-use of entire building elements and components (‘design for disassembly’; prefabrication of modular building components), and other relevant strategies to implement zero waste by avoiding waste creation, reducing wasteful consumption and changing behaviour in the design and construction sectors. The paper touches on two important issues in regard to the rapid depletion of the world’s natural resources: the built environment and the education of architects and designers (both topics of further research). The construction and demolition (C&D) sector: Prefabricated multi-story buildings for inner-city living can set new benchmarks for minimizing construction wastage and for modular on-site assembly. Today, the C&D sector is one of the main producers of waste; it does not engage enough with waste minimization, waste avoidance and recycling. Education and research: It’s still unclear how best to introduce a holistic understanding of these challenges and to better teach practical and affordable solutions to architects, urban designers, industrial designers, and so on. How must urban development and construction change and evolve to automatically embed sustainability in the way we design, build, operate, maintain and renew/recycle cities? One of the findings of this paper is that embedding zero-waste requires strong industry leadership, new policies and effective education curricula, as well as raising awareness (through research and education) and refocusing research agendas to bring about attitudinal change and the reduction of wasteful consumption.
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