Town Planning Review 86.4: Best paper freely available online for limited time only!

Posted on July 21, 2015 by Chantel Baldry

Measuring Sustainability

The editors of Town Planning Review have chosen 'Measuring Sustainability' by Professors Michael Neuman and Stuart Churchill to be the best paper in Volume 86 Issue 4. The article will be freely available online for a limited time.

Professors Michael Neuman's and Stuart Churchill's novel contribution is to integrate several laws of nature to develop an algorithm to quantitatively assess the degree of sustainability of any process, whether ecological, economic, or social, as well as chemical or biological.  They took inspiration from the first and second laws of thermodynamics, along with rate process theory, which was developed by Churchill.

Urban development projects, industrial production, resource extraction and infrastructure management are all processes which adhere to fundamental laws of nature.  We argue that these laws need to be considered in the calculation of the degree of sustainability of any of those processes.  This leads to an integrated evaluation model that is quantifiable in scientifically reproducible terms.  

 The paper argues that this dynamic approach, that applies at any scale and takes into consideration the spatial and temporal factors of processes, permits empirical applications that correspond to real world (dynamic, complex, evolving) conditions across space and time.  These characteristics make it especially suitable for applications in the various field of spatial planning, such as architecture and construction, landscape architecture and ecological preservation, and urban planning and design. 

 Dr. Neuman said “planning for sustainability has been high on many agendas for quite a while, yet no rigorous mathematical models had been developed to measure scientifically whether a process was sustainable or not.  In response, our model incorporates two scientific laws that up to now had been overlooked — the second law of thermodynamics and rate process theory — to provide a sound basis to measure sustainability.  This allows the development of strategies, projects, and processes that can make them better capable to be truly sustainable”.

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