Planning as a metabolic intervention



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Human society relies heavily on flows of natural resources though a process called social metabolism. Growing populations and material throughput have become an ominous pattern as the negative feedbacks stemming from industrialized societies push the limits of the planetary life-support system. As the home for the majority of people and the demand-driver for material consumption, the city is a strategic point of intervention. City planners have historically, though perhaps unintentionally, shaped the social metabolism of cities. To address the rift between cities and nature, this paper seeks to refine and improve upon the existing planning approaches to guiding social metabolism. A review of social metabolism studies informs how existing data and analysis techniques can be integrated into comprehensive planning. A prototype of this methodology is presented for the water metabolism of Austin TX, demonstrating the promise of integrated metabolic planning.