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Research Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society | IREES Research

Exploring the relationship between the neighborhood-level urban form and energy metabolism | Miaohan Tang

Miaohan Tang
Miaohan Tang

Field | Discipline

  • Urban sustainability
  • Environmental Science


  • Urban metabolism
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Complex network analysis


Along with the rapid urbanization over the past few decades, urban areas have evolved as centers of population living. However, human-driven activities have been subjected to severe metabolic pressure and evoked dramatically irreversible environmental degradation. Understanding the effects of urban form is necessary to improve energy performance because such understanding helps urban planners make appropriate decisions on physical forms that affect urban energy consumption.

Urban metabolism is a biophysical analogy that focuses on unveiling material and energy metabolic interactions. Urban metabolism becomes a long-standing topic in the studies of sustainable urban development, planning, and management. To date, urban metabolic studies are to portray the critical metabolic flows, assess resource distribution, and reveal metabolic mechanisms at the macro- and mid-levels. Furthermore, small-scale urban metabolism indicates the compelling value by providing bottom-up insights into detail metabolic structure and interactions. Therein, incorporating urban metabolism into the urban socioeconomic domains has also drawn increasing attention.

Neighborhood, as the nexus between urban system and household settlements, is an appropriate unit unraveling intra-urban characteristics and intrinsic drivers of interrelations among cities, households, and surrounding environment. Neighborhoods metabolism thus is regarded as a decisive social driver for fostering environmental pressure with a refined scale. Community-led studies demonstrate desirable references to assess metabolic performance at the small-scale dimension. However, there is still a lack of continuous and clear recognition of the changing pattern of the neighborhood-level energy metabolic performance along the gradient of the urban development level, preventing us from better understanding the context-dependent impact of urban form on energy metabolism and improving the urban sustainable development. Against this background, this work applies a network approach to evaluate the urban form and further explore the relationships between the neighbor-level urban form and energy metabolic performance.

Therefore, this research sheds light on the urban form and energy metabolic performance at the neighborhood scale in conjunction with complex network analysis, emergy analysis, and qualitative comparative analysis. Specifically, my current research will focus on the following objectives:

  1. To reveal the urban form at the neighborhood scale with the aid of complex network theory, which may help to detail the features of urban form from a systematic perspective.
  2. To quantify the emergy flows consumed by the communal metabolic system based on emergy analysis, illustrating the resources metabolic performance of different communities.\
  3. To explore the impact of urban form on communal emergy metabolic performance.

Supervision by

  • Promotor: Prof. dr. K.S. (Klaus) Hubacek | Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society - IREES | ESRIG, University of Groningen.
  • Daily supervisor: Dr. Y. (Yuli) Shan | Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society - IREES | ESRIG, University of Groningen.

More information and contact details can be found on the personal profile of Miaohan Tang

Last modified:11 April 2023 11.20 a.m.