Towards Productive Cities: Environmental Assessment of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus of the Urban Roof Mosaic

Susana Toboso-Chavero, Ana Nadal, Anna Petit-Boix, Oriol Pons, Gara Villalba, Xavier Gabarrell, Alejandro Josa, Joan Rieradevall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Cities are rapidly growing and need to look for ways to optimize resource consumption. Metropolises are especially vulnerable in three main systems, often referred to as the FEW (i.e., food, energy, and water) nexus. In this context, urban rooftops are underutilized areas that might be used for the production of these resources. We developed the Roof Mosaic approach, which combines life cycle assessment with two rooftop guidelines, to analyze the technical feasibility and environmental implications of producing food and energy, and harvesting rainwater on rooftops through different combinations at different scales. To illustrate, we apply the Roof Mosaic approach to a densely populated neighborhood in a Mediterranean city. The building-scale results show that integrating rainwater harvesting and food production would avoid relatively insignificant emissions (13.9–18.6 kg CO2 eq/inhabitant/year) in the use stage, but their construction would have low environmental impacts. In contrast, the application of energy systems (photovoltaic or solar thermal systems) combined with rainwater harvesting could potentially avoid higher CO2 eq emissions (177–196 kg CO2 eq/inhabitant/year) but generate higher environmental burdens in the construction phase. When applied at the neighborhood scale, the approach can be optimized to meet between 7% and 50% of FEW demands and avoid up to 157 tons CO2 eq/year. This approach is a useful guide to optimize the FEW nexus providing a range of options for the exploitation of rooftops at the local scale, which can aid cities in becoming self-sufficient, optimizing resources, and reducing CO2 eq emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-780
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Keywords

  • industrial ecology
  • life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • rainwater harvesting
  • resource self-sufficiency
  • solar energy
  • urban agriculture

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