Evidence and Spatial Planning for Sustainable Development: A Model for Spatially Allocating Material Flows

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The aspiration the spatial planning should act as the main coordinating function for the transition to a sustainable society is grounded on the assumption that it is capable of incorporating both a strong evidence base of environmental accounting for policy, coupled with opportunities for open, deliberative decision-making. While there are a number of increasingly sophisticated methods (such as material flow analysis and ecological footprinting) that can be used to longitudinally determine the impact of policy, there are fewer that can provide a robust spatial assessment of sustainability policy. In this paper, we introduce the Spatial Allocation of Material Flow Analysis (SAMFA) model, which uses the concept of socio-economic metabolism to extrapolate the impact of local consumption patterns that may occur as a result of the local spatial planning process at multiple spatial levels. The initial application the SAMFA model is based on County Kildare in the Republic of Ireland, through spatial temporal simulation and visualisation of construction material flows and associated energy use in the housing sector. Thus, while we focus on an Ireland case study, the model is applicable to spatial planning and sustainability research more generally. Through the development and evaluation of alternative scenarios, the model appears to be successful in its prediction of the cumulative resource and energy impacts arising from consumption and development patterns. This leads to some important insights in relation to the differential spatial distribution of disaggregated allocation of material balance and energy use, for example that rural areas have greater resource accumulation (and are therefore in a sense “less sustainable”) than urban areas, confirming that rural housing in Ireland is both more material and energy intensive. This therefore has the potential to identify hotspots of higher material and energy use, which can be addressed through targeted planning initiatives or focussed community engagement. Furthermore, due to the ability of the model to allow manipulation of different policy criteria (increased density, urban conservation etc), it can also act as an effective basis for multi-stakeholder engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • spatial planning, material flow analysis, sustainability, GIS


Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence and Spatial Planning for Sustainable Development: A Model for Spatially Allocating Material Flows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this