Green Infrastructure in the Space of Flows: An Urban Metabolism Approach to Bridge Environmental Performance and User’s Wellbeing

  • Daniela PerrottiEmail author
  • Ornella Iuorio
Part of the Cities and Nature book series (CITIES)


Recent research demonstrates that urban metabolism studies hold ample scope for informing more sustainable urban planning and design. The assessment of the resource flows that are required to sustain the growth and maintenance of cities can allow gaining a clear picture of how cities operate to comply with environmental performance standards and to ensure that both human and ecosystem health are preserved. Green infrastructure (GI) plays a key role in enhancing both cities’ environmental performance and health. For example, GI interventions mitigate the Urban Heat Island effect (improved thermal comfort), reduce particulate matter concentration (healthier air quality), and sequestrate and store atmospheric carbon (climate change mitigation). Research on ecosystem services and the application of the concept in urban planning provides a growing evidence base that an understanding of provisioning and regulating services can facilitate more environmentally informed GI planning and design. The contribution of GI in enhancing human health and psychological wellbeing is also evidenced in recent studies valuing both material and immaterial benefits provided by urban ecosystems, including cultural ecosystem services. Therefore, the use of ecosystem service frameworks can help reveal and quantify the role of GI in fostering both urban environmental quality and the wellbeing of human populations. However, there remains little discussion of how health and wellbeing aspects can be integrated with environmental performance objectives. In this chapter, urban metabolism thinking is proposed as a way forward, providing analytical tools to inform environmentally-optimized strategies across the urban scales. Opportunities to foster integrated urban metabolism approaches that can inform more holistic GI planning are discussed. Finally, future research avenues to incorporate the multiple dimensions of human health and wellbeing into urban metabolism thinking are highlighted.


  1. Agudelo-Vera CM, Leduc WRWA, Melsa AR (2012) Harvesting urban resources towards more resilient cities. Resour Conserv Recycl 64:3–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahern J, Cilliers S, Niemelä J (2014) The concept of ecosystem services in adaptive urban planning and design: a framework for supporting innovation. Landsc Urban Plan 125:254–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akbari H, Davis S, Dorsano S et al (1992) Cooling our communities. A guidebook on tree planting and light-colored surfacing. US Environmental Protection AgencyGoogle Scholar
  4. Beloin-Saint-Pierre D, Rugani B, Lasvaux S et al (2017) A review of urban metabolism studies to identify key methodological choices for future harmonization and implementation. J Clean Prod 163:S223–S240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bratman GN, Hamilton JP, Daily GC (2012) The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1249(1):118–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buchel S, Frantzeskaki N (2015) Citizens’ voice: a case study about perceived ecosystem services by urban park users in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Ecosyst Serv 12:169–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chan KM, Satterfield T, Goldstein J (2012) Rethinking ecosystem services to better address and navigate cultural values. Ecol Econ 74:8–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen D, Wang X, Thatcher M et al (2014) Urban vegetation for reducing heat related mortality. Environ Pollut 192:275–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chrysoulakis N, Lopez M, San Josè R et al (2013) Sustainable urban metabolism as a link between bio-physical sciences and urban planning: the BRIDGE project. Landsc Urban Plan 112:100–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Daniel TC, Muhar A, Arnberger A et al (2012) Contributions of cultural services to the ecosystem services agenda. Proc Natl Acad Sci 109(23):8812–8819CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Groot R, Alkemade R, Braat L et al (2010) Challenges in integrating the concept of ecosystem services and values in landscape planning, management and decision making. Ecol Complex 7(3):260–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Vries S, Verheij RA, Groenewegen PP et al (2003) Natural environments—healthy environments? An exploratory analysis of the relationship between greenspace and health. Environ Plan A 35(10):1717–1731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dravigne A, Waliczek TM, Lineberger R et al (2008) The effect of live plants and window views of green spaces on employee perceptions of job satisfaction. Horticult Sci 43(1):183–187Google Scholar
  14. Eftec (2015) Beam Parklands natural capital account. Final report for the Greater London Authority. Nov 2015. Available at: Accessed on 04/06/2018
  15. Eftec, Jon Sheaf Associates (2017) London Borough of Barnet. Corporate natural capital account. Full report. Version V2.0. Mar 2017. Available at: Accessed on 04/06/2018
  16. Fuller RA, Irvine KN, Devine-Wright P, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2007) Psychological benefits of greenspace increase with biodiversity. Biol Lett 3(4):390–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gómez-Baggethun E, Barton DN (2013) Classifying and valuing ecosystem services for urban planning. Ecol Econ 86:235–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grêt-Regamey A, Sirén E, Brunner SH (2016) Review of decision support tools to operationalize the ecosystem services concept. Ecosyst Serv 26(B):306–315Google Scholar
  19. Hansen R, Pauleit S (2014) From multifunctionality to multiple ecosystem services? A conceptual framework for multifunctionality in green infrastructure planning for urban areas. Ambio 43(4):516–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hill O (1888) More air for London. Ninet Century 23:181–188Google Scholar
  21. Kennedy C, Cuddihy J, Engel-Yan J (2007) The changing metabolism of cities. J Ind Ecol 11(2):43–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kennedy C, Pincetl S, Bunje P (2011) The study of urban metabolism and its applications to urban planning and design. Environ Pollut 159(8–9):1965–1973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kremer P, Hamstead D, Haase T et al (2016) Key insights for the future of urban ecosystem services research. Ecol Soc 21(2):29–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kuo FE (2001) Coping with poverty. Environ Behav 33(1):5–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Landscape Institute (2018) Natural capital accounting. Technical information note 02/2018. Mar 2018. Available at: Accessed on 04/06/2018
  26. Langemeyer J, Baró F, Roebeling P et al (2015) Contrasting values of cultural ecosystem services in urban areas: the case of park Montjuïc in Barcelona. Ecosyst Serv 12:178–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Ecosystems and human well-being: synthesis. Island Press, Washington DC. Available at: Accessed on 04/06/2018
  28. Mirza L, Byrd H, Linzey M (2012) The impact of urban background on the appreciation of natural environments. In: International conference on built environment within developing countries, Adelaide, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  29. Mitchell R, Popham F (2007) Greenspace, urbanity and health: relationships in England. J Epidemiol Community Health 61(8):681–683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mohareb EA, Heller MC, Novak P et al (2017) Considerations for reducing food system energy demand while scaling up urban agriculture. Environ Res Lett 12(12):125004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mohareb EA, Heller MC, Guthrie PM (2018) Cities’ role in mitigating United States food system greenhouse gas emissions. Environ Sci Technol 52(10):5545–5554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Newell JP, Cousins JJ, Baka J (2017) Political-industrial ecology: an introduction. Geoforum 85:319–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nowak DJ, Hoehn REI, Crane D et al (2007) Assessing urban forest effects and values: New York City’s urban forest. US Department of Agriculture. Available at: Accessed on 04/06/2018
  34. Nowak DJ, Hirabayashi S, Bodine A et al (2012) Modeled PM2.5 removal by trees in ten U.S. cities and associated health effects. Environ Pollut 178:395–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nowak DJ, Hoehn REI, Bodine AR et al (2013) Assessing urban forest effects and values, Toronto’s urban forest. US Department of Agriculture. Available at: Accessed on 04/06/2018
  36. Nowak DJ, Hoehn RE, Bodine AR et al (2016) Urban forest structure, ecosystem services and change in Syracuse, NY. Urban Ecosyst 19(4):1455–1477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Oliveira S, Andrade H, Vaz T (2011) The cooling effect of green spaces as a contribution to the mitigation of urban heat: a case study in Lisbon. Build Environ 46(11):2186–2194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pataki DE, Carreiro MM, Cherrier J et al (2011) Coupling biogeochemical cycles in urban environments: ecosystem services, green solutions, and misconceptions. Front Ecol Environ 9(1):27–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Perrotti D, Stremke S (2018) Can urban metabolism models advance green infrastructure planning? Insights from ecosystem services research. Environ Plan B. Prepublished 10 Sept 2018, OnlineFirstGoogle Scholar
  40. Roy M, Curry R, Ellis G (2015) Spatial allocation of material flow analysis in residential developments: a case study of Kildare County, Ireland. J Environ Planning Manage 58(10):1749–1769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Southon GE, Jorgensen A, Dunnett N et al (2018) Perceived species-richness in urban green spaces: cues, accuracy and well-being impacts. Landsc Urban Plan 172:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tiwary A, Sinnett D, Peachey C et al (2009) An integrated tool to assess the role of new planting in PM10 capture and the human health benefits: a case study in London. Environ Pollut 157:2645–2653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Van den Berg AE, Jorgensen A, Wilson ER (2014) Evaluating restoration in urban green spaces: does setting type make a difference? Landscape Urban Plann 127:173–181Google Scholar
  44. Voskamp I, Stremke S, Spiller M et al (2017) Enhanced performance of the Eurostat method for comprehensive assessment of urban metabolism. A material flow analysis of Amsterdam. J Ind Ecol 21(4):887–902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wang Y, Bakker F, de Groot R et al (2014) Effect of ecosystem services provided by urban green infrastructure on indoor environment: a literature review. Build Environ 77(1):88–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. White M, Smith A, Humphryes K et al (2010) Blue space: the importance of water for preference, affect, and restorativeness ratings of natural and built scenes. J Environ Psychol 30(4):482–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wilson OE (1984) Biophilia. The human bond with other species. President and Fellow of Harvard College, USAGoogle Scholar
  48. Wong NH, Yu C (2005) Study of green areas and urban heat island in a tropical city. Habitat Int 29(3):547–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  2. 2.University of LeedsLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations