Until now, there was no method to calculate the global carbon footprint when designing the urban plan of a town. This environmental concept identifies and quantifies the greenhouse gases emitted by human products or activities individually.
"Our method is novel because, at the level of urban design, it is very easy to implement preventive measures for sustainable emissions over time," says Sergio Zubelzu, professor at the Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) .
In a study in collaboration with the Antonio de Nebrija University, Zubelzu has defined the activities that generate greenhouse gases inherent to the urban plan, such as water purification, wastewater management, waste treatment, transportation and supply electric and gas. The model classifies the different industrial activities into categories and divides land use into urban, developable and undeveloped.
The data used come from 33 medium-sized towns between Madrid and Toledo, such as Chinchón, Villaconejos or Titulcia. "It is a group of municipalities with a relevant industrial sector and very dependent in economic terms both on Madrid and, to a lesser extent, on Toledo," adds the professor.
The biggest polluting sources
The work, published in Energy Policy, reveals that the chemical industries are the most polluting, as a consequence of their high energy consumption, with 1,110.71 kg of carbon dioxide per square meter.
Furniture and other manufactured products industries are the ones that generate the least emissions, with 43.5 kgCO2 / m2. The average carbon footprint of all industrial activities was 469.89 kgCO2 / m2.
Gas and electricity are the major pollutant sources in the chemical industry and of non-metallic mineral products (such as cement), while transport is the largest agent of emissions in other industrial activities.
The new method can be used in municipalities similar to those studied. "The tool can be applied in any area with characteristics similar to those analyzed, especially if they are located in the surroundings of a large economic center and have industrial activities," says Zubelzu.
In the authors' opinion, municipalities can have a decisive influence on the industrial carbon footprint because most of the reductions can be achieved by making decisions in urban planning.
Sergio Zubelzu and Roberto Álvarez. "Urban planning and industry in Spain: a novel methodology for calculating industrial carbon footprints". Energy Policy 83, 2015. DOI: 10.1016 / j.enpol.2015.03.025.