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CIRCuIT research on building material flow analysis published in leading scientific journal

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

CIRCuIT’s Helsinki partners at Tampere University have published their latest research in the leading scientific journal on urban planning and design. The paper How changes in urban morphology translate into urban metabolisms of building stocks: A framework for spatiotemporal material flow analysis and a case study is available to read in Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science journal.


Anthropogenic stocks are increasingly seen as potential reserves for secondary resources, which has led to a rapid development in research of urban metabolic systems. With regard to buildings and their associated material stocks and flows, one of the most critical shortcomings in the state-of-the-art is the knowledge gap for drivers, dynamics, patterns and linkages that affect the urban metabolism. This paper is premised on the idea that urban planning stirs up these material flows, so it should also adopt their sustainable management on its agenda.

It presents an approach that highlights the intertwined nature of changing urban morphology and building material stocks and flows in space and time. An analytical framework, based on the principles of material flow analysis, is provided for an integrated, spatiotemporal study of urban morphology and urban metabolism of buildings, using building and plot data as the input and identifying internal processes of the urban metabolism as the output. The identified processes include greenfield development, infill construction, building replacement and shrinkage, each of which can be expected to have tangible yet very different material and environmental consequences in the form of embodied materials and CO2.

The use of the framework is demonstrated with a case study in the Finnish city of Vantaa in 2000–2018. The case study shows patterns pertaining to a growing city unrestricted by geographic or historic factors, manifested as vast greenfield developments and replacement of a notably young building stock. As sustainability may soon call into question both these strategies, uncovering the material consequences of a city’s past urban (re)development strategies lay the foundation for using the presented approach proactively in planning support, in pursuit of more circular economy-based and low carbon cities.

The paper is authored by Mario Kolkwitz, Elina Luotonen and Satu Huuhka.

To read the full paper, click here.

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