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Life Cycle Assessment of Ecosystem Services for Phoenix’s Building Stock

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Better methods are necessary to fully account for anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems and the essential services provided by ecosystems that sustain human life. Current methods for assessing sustainability, such as life cycle assessment (LCA), typically focus on easily quantifiable indicators

Better methods are necessary to fully account for anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems and the essential services provided by ecosystems that sustain human life. Current methods for assessing sustainability, such as life cycle assessment (LCA), typically focus on easily quantifiable indicators such as air emissions with no accounting for the essential ecosystem benefits that support human or industrial processes. For this reason, more comprehensive, transparent, and robust methods are necessary for holistic understanding of urban technosphere and ecosphere systems, including their interfaces. Incorporating ecosystem service indicators into LCA is an important step in spanning this knowledge gap.

For urban systems, many built environment processes have been investigated but need to be expanded with life cycle assessment for understanding ecosphere impacts. To pilot these new methods, a material inventory of the building infrastructure of Phoenix, Arizona can be coupled with LCA to gain perspective on the impacts assessment for built structures in Phoenix. This inventory will identify the origins of materials stocks, and the solid and air emissions waste associated with their raw material extraction, processing, and construction and identify key areas of future research necessary to fully account for ecosystem services in urban sustainability assessments. Based on this preliminary study, the ecosystem service impacts of metropolitan Phoenix stretch far beyond the county boundaries. A life cycle accounting of the Phoenix’s embedded building materials will inform policy and decision makers, assist with community education, and inform the urban sustainability community of consequences.

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Whiskey is for drinking - water is for fighting over: population growth, infrastructure change, and conservation policy as drivers of residential water demand

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As urban populations grow, water managers are becoming increasingly concerned about water scarcity. Water managers once relied on developing new sources of water supply to manage scarcity but economically feasible sources of unclaimed water are now rare, leading to an

As urban populations grow, water managers are becoming increasingly concerned about water scarcity. Water managers once relied on developing new sources of water supply to manage scarcity but economically feasible sources of unclaimed water are now rare, leading to an increased interest in demand side management. Water managers in Las Vegas, Nevada have developed innovative demand side management strategies due to the cities rapid urbanization and limited water supply. Three questions are addressed. First, in the developed areas of the Las Vegas Valley Water District service areas, how did vegetation area change? To quantify changes in vegetation area, the Matched Filter Vegetation Index (MFVI) is developed from Mixture Tuned Match Filtering estimates of vegetation area calibrated against vegetation area estimates from high-resolution aerial photography. In the established city core, there was a small but significant decline in vegetation area. Second, how much of the observed decline in per capita consumption can be explained by Las Vegas land cover and physical infrastructure change that resulted from extensive new construction and new use of water conserving technology, and how much can be attributed to water conservation policy choices? A regression analysis is performed, followed by an analysis of three counter-factual scenarios to decompose reductions in household water into its constituent parts. The largest citywide drivers of change in water consumption were increased water efficiency associated with new construction and rapid population growth. In the established urban core, the most significant driver was declining vegetation area. Third, water savings generated by a conservation program that provides incentives for homeowners to convert grass into desert landscaping are estimated. In the city core, 82 gallons of water are saved in June for each square meter of landscape converted in the first year after conversion, but the savings attenuate to 33 gallons per meter converted as the landscape ages. Voluntary landscape conversion programs can generate substantial water savings. The most significant result is that the most effective way to ensure long term, sustainable reductions in water consumption in a growing city without changing water prices is to support the construction of water efficient infrastructure.

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2014