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Estimating material and energy intensities of urban areas

Estimating material and energy intensities of urban areas
David J. Quinn
Journal Article
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The objective of this thesis is to develop methods to estimate, analyze and visualize the resource intensity of urban areas. Understanding the resource consumption of the built environment is particularly relevant in cities that are rapidly growing, as the urban forms that emerge have long-term consequences for both the quality of life of the inhabitants, and their future material and energy demands. This work was completed by assembling datasets of cities from around the world, identifying geometric patterns in the built environment, relating these geometric patterns to material and energy intensities, and illustrating these intensities in a visually intuitive way. This thesis describes a standardized analytical approach to assess the physical characteristics of the built environment, enabling comparisons to be made between cities. This approach provides a preliminary assessment of resource intensities that may be useful for decision-makers to compare differences among a variety of urban forms. Finally, a new web-map visualization tool has been developed that enables users to gain an understanding of the resource intensity of 40 cities in the USA. This tool allows the user to explore the resource intensity of urban areas using a web-browser, and to dynamically generate reports that can compare areas within a city, or entire cities, to each other.
Open Access
More Information
Data Visualizations
Interactive Visualization and Measurement of Urban Areas 2012


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