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Spatial allocation of material flow analysis: a Geographic Information System application of material flow analysis in Ireland

Research output: Book/Report/ProceedingsCommissioned report

Published

Publication date2010
Place of publicationWexford
PublisherEnvironmental Protection Agency
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This study concerns the spatial allocation of material flows, with emphasis on construction material in the Irish housing sector. It addresses some of the key issues concerning anthropogenic impact on the environment through spatial temporal visualisation of the flow of materials, wastes and emissions at different spatial levels. This is presented in the form of a spatial model, Spatial Allocation of Material Flow Analysis (SAMFA), which enables the simulation of construction material flows and associated energy use. SAMFA parallels the Island Limits project (EPA funded under 2004-SD-MS-22-M2), which aimed to create a material flow analysis of the Irish economy classified by industrial sector. SAMFA further develops this by attempting to establish the material flows at the subnational geographical scale that could be used in the development of local authority (LA) sustainability strategies and spatial planning frameworks by highlighting the cumulative environmental impacts of the development of the built environment. By drawing on the idea of planning support systems, SAMFA also aims to provide a cross-disciplinary, integrative medium for involving stakeholders in strategies for a sustainable built environment and, as such, would help illustrate the sustainability consequences of alternative The pilot run of the model in Kildare has shown that the model can be successfully calibrated and applied to develop alternative material flows and energy-use scenarios at the ED level. This has been demonstrated through the development of an integrated and a business-as-usual scenario, with the former integrating a range of potential material efficiency and energysaving policy options and the latter replicating conditions that best describe the current trend. Their comparison shows that the former is better than the latter in terms of both material and energy use. This report also identifies a number of potential areas of future research and areas of broader application. This includes improving the accuracy of the SAMFA model (e.g. by establishing actual life expectancy of buildings in the Irish context through field surveys) and the extension of the model to other Irish counties. This would establish SAMFA as a valuable predicting and monitoring tool that is capable of integrating national and local spatial planning objectives with actual environmental impacts. Furthermore, should the model prove successful at this level, it then has the potential to transfer the modelling approach to other areas of the built environment, such as commercial development and other key contributors of greenhouse emissions. The ultimate aim is to develop a meta-model for predicting the consequences of consumption patterns at the local scale. This therefore offers the possibility of creating critical links between socio technical systems with the most important challenge of all the limitations of the biophysical environment.