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On complexity theory, exergy, and industrial ecology James J. Kay. Content. Industrial ecology and its evolution Self-organizing hierarchical open systems Ecosystem as SOHO Sustainable livelihoods Ecological-societal system interface Four design principles of industrial ecology

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Content l.jpg

  • Industrial ecology and its evolution

  • Self-organizing hierarchical open systems

  • Ecosystem as SOHO

  • Sustainable livelihoods

  • Ecological-societal system interface

  • Four design principles of industrial ecology

  • Application

  • Conclusion

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Ecosystems Engineering

  • A new branch of engineering

    • in line with the basic premise proposed by Kay (1977)

    • bring together ecology, economics, engineering design, systems theory, and thermodynamics

    • provide methodology for designing, implementing, and maintaining eco-compatible systems

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Defining Industrial Ecology

  • The concert of industrial system and surrounding systems (Graedel and Allenby 1995)

  • Multidisciplinary study of industrial and economic systems (IEEE 1995)

  • Industrial infrastructure as interlocking manmade ecosystems interfacing with global ecosystems (Tibbs 1992)

  • Merging systems thinking w/ system engineering and economics (O’Rourke et al. 1996)

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Ecosystem Approach

  • “The application of systems thinking to the analysis and design of biophysical mass and energy transformation systems.” Kay (2001)

  • Basis for this chapter

    • exploring an ecosystem approach for industrial ecology

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  • Industrial ecology (IE) is failing to reform industry because:

    • Society did not see the need

    • We do not grasp how to analyze mass-energy flow systems

    • We do not understand how ecological systems work

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  • Recasting of economics

    • ecological economics

  • Appropriate application of thermodynamics

    • describe mass-energy flow systems

    • the quality of flow and effectiveness

  • Understanding ecosystem

    • crucial to our survival

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Kay Proposes the Following 4 Design Principles:

  • . Interfacing

  • . Bionics

  • . Biotechnology

  • . Non-renewable Resources as Capital

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Four Design Principles for Industrial Ecology

  • First published in 1977

  • Explicitly derived from systematic application of system theory

  • Deal with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, hierarchy, and attractors

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First Design Principle: Interfacing

  • The interference between man-made systems and natural ecosystems must reflect the limited ability of natural ecosystems to provide energy and absorb waste before their survival potential is significantly altered, and that the survival potential of natural ecosystems must be maintained.

  • This is referred to as the problem of interfacing.

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First Design Principle: Interfacing (cont.)

  • There can be a substantial change in context, from which the system can buffer itself, and hence there will be no change in the system’s state

    • Ex. Phosphorous in a lake has little effect until a threshold is reached. Once the threshold is reached, there is a dramatic reorganization in the lake, a flip between attractors, and a massive change in context is needed to return the system to it’s original state

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Second Design Principle: Bionics

  • The behavior and structure of large-scale societal systems should be as similar as possible to those exhibited by natural ecosystems.

  • This is referred to as, by Papanek, as the principle of bionics (mimicry)

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Third Design Principle: Biotechnology

  • Whenever feasible, the function of a component of a societal system should be carried out by a subsystem of the natural biosphere.

  • This is referred to as using appropriate biotechnology.

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Third Design Principle: Biotechnology (cont.)

  • Examples

    • The use of natural landscapes for storm water management in place of concrete channel

      • This has shown a lower capital costs and operating costs

    • Replacement of turf grass with natural communities that are self-maintaining

      • Reduces cost of maintaining landscapes

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Fourth Design Principle: Non-renewable Resources Used as Capital Expenditures

  • Non-renewable resources are used only as capital expenditures to bring renewable resources in line.

  • Resources are not inherently renewable, it is how we use them that makes them renewable.

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Fourth Design Principle: Non-renewable Resources Used as Capital Expenditures

  • When a resource is used at a rate that is less than the rate at which it can be replenished by natural systems, then the use of the resource is renewable

  • Replenished

    • The natural system is producing stock of the resource at a rate such that the stock of the resource in the natural system does not decrease.

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Lesson from Past 30 Years

  • When dealing with environmental issues, the complexity of the relationship between societal and natural ecosystems requires a significantly more sophisticated approach than that of normal scientific method analysis and evaluation.

    • Example:

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Challenge in Industrial Ecology

  • We do not have the sufficient understanding of the the cause and effect relationship when it comes to the natural ecosystem

  • We do know the questions to ask, but not how to answer them

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Complex Adaptive SOHO

  • SOHO- Self-organizing hierarchical open systems

  • Spontaneous coherent behavior and organization occurs in open systems

  • Open systems are processing an enduring flow of high-quality energy (exergy)

  • Behavior can change suddenly when system reaches a “catastrophe threshold”

    • a point of discontinuity

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Second Law of Thermodynamics

  • Non-equilibrium

    • nature resists movement away from equilibrium

    • open system responds with new structure

    • more exergy: more organization emerges to dissipate exergy

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  • Vortex in bathtub water as it drains

    • exergy is potential energy of the water

    • raw material is the water

    • dissipating process is water draining

    • dissipating structure is the vortex

      • vortex does not form until height of water in bathtub reaches a certain level

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Open to material and energy flow




Feedback loops


Multiple steady states

Exhibit chaotic and catastrophic behavior

Dynamically stable


Internal causality

Window of vitality

Characteristic of Ecosystem as SOHO

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Ecosystems as Self-organizing systems

  • Viewed as biotic, physical, and chemical components of Nature

  • non-equilibrium, dissipative systems

  • develop in a way that systematically increases their ability to degrade the incoming solar exergy

  • more processes of material and energy - greater possibility for exergy degradation

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Expected Changes in Maturing Ecosystem

  • More exergy capture-the more exergy flow, the more there is to utilize

  • More energy flow activity within the system

  • More cycling of energy and material

  • Higher average trophic structure

  • Higher respiration and transpiration

  • Larger ecosystem biomass

  • More types of organisms

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Effective Exergy Degradation

  • Surface temperature measurements

    • function of the temperature difference between the captured solar energy and the energy re-radiated by the ecosystem

    • consider five different surfaces:

      • mirror

      • flat black surface

      • artificial grass carpet

      • natural grass lawn

      • rainforest

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Complexity Theory

  • The complexity theory is a theory of non-equilibrium Nonlinear systems related to Chaos Theory.

  • Chaos Theory:

    • the theory of non-linear functions, such that small differences in the input of the function can result in large and unpredictable differences in the output.

    • A theory of systems that includes a number of specific parts, such as the "strange attractor" (an orderly pattern in seemingly disordered conditions), "reliance on initial conditions" (the so-called butterfly effect - that the weather in Utah can be affected by the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Brazil), fractals, the genetic algorithm, and entropy.

  • Sustainability examined with broader context

    • systems embedded in systems

  • complex systems viewed from different perspectives and scale

    • self-organizing

    • function of positive and negative feedback loops

    • organized about attractors (operating states)

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Industrial Ecology

Activity of designing and managing human production-consumption systems, so they interact with natural systems, to form an integrated ecosystem which has ecological integrity and provides humans with a sustainable livelihood.

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The Normative Foundation

  • The two notions that are the normative basis for the practice of industrial ecology are:

    • Sustainable Livelihood

    • Ecological Integrity

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Sustainable Livelihoods

  • People’s capacity to make a living by surviving shocks and stress to improve their material condition without jeopardizing the livelihood options of other peoples, either now or in the future.

  • Sustainable Livelihood is important because it is one basis for the practice of industrial ecology

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Three Aspects of Sustainable Livelihood

  • Economic efficiency- use of minimal inputs to generate a given amount of outputs.

  • Ecological integrity- livelihood activities do not irreversibly degrade natural resources within a given ecosystem.

  • Social equality- livelihood opportunities for one group should not foreclose options for other groups, now or in the future.

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Ecological Integrity(Three facets of self-organization)

  • Current well-being

    • Ecological health of the system

  • Resiliency

    • Stress response capability of the ecosystem

  • Capacity to develop

    • System’s potential to continue to self-organize

      (Kay and Regier 2000)

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The Ecological-Societal System Interface

  • Ecological communities provide the energy, materials, and information required for human societies to sustain themselves. In other words, they provide the biophysical surroundings that are required by the self-organizing processes of the social system.

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The Ecological-Societal System Interface (cont)

  • The societal system depends on the flow of energy, materials, and information from the ecological system to support its processes and structures. These flows, along with the biophysical environment provided by the ecological systems, are the context for social systems.

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Two Strategies to Address(Discussed more in Module Five- Gary Peterson)

  • Adaptive Management

    • Assuming one’s design is at best a temporary transient solution to a situation, one must build into one’s design the ability to change and adapt to changing circumstances

  • Precautionary Principle

    • Whenever possible, we should limit the affluent from societal systems (both waste materials and energy) flowing across the interface into natural systems

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Efficiency Vs. Effectiveness

  • Efficiency

    • How well the quantity of flow is used

  • Effectiveness

    • How well the quality of flow is used

      • Measured in exergy

  • Sub-optimization

    • Assumption that individual subsystems are made efficient

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Two Broad Themes in Self-Organization

  • Coping with a change in the environment by:

    • Taking control of the environment

    • Isolate the system from the environment

    • Adapt the environment to the changed environment

  • Making good use of available resources

    • Efficiency

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Adapting / Evolving structures

Static Structures

Self Organizing

Solid Waste Stream





Groups of Building

Natural Ecosystems

Construction Ecology

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Mimicry of Specific Systems

  • Rainfall collection

  • Copying the radioactive characteristics of forest canopies for the purposes of heat gain or the avoidance of, whenever appropriate.

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Incorporation of Natural Systems in Buildings

  • Systems that can transform wastewater into drinking water.

  • Rooftop gardens to insulate and cool buildings

  • As air purifiers and climate control aids

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The Design Process

  • Identify major Players: stakeholders, actors, users, etc.

  • Identify the issues each of the above have regarding the project

  • Discuss Trade-offs

  • “In an Ecosystem approach, design must become about developing dynamic processes rather than static structures”

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Man’s Alternative to the Resource Crisis

  • Continue our present behavior and depend on technology to save us.

  • Continue our present behavior and count on expanding into space as Earth becomes inhabitable.

  • Assign dollar values to current practices of resource usage and dumping of wastes in the environment.

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Man’s Alternative to the Resource Crisis (continued)

  • Man recognizes he is part of the natural environment and not external to it. He must integrate himself into this environment. His behavior must take into account the limitations of the natural environment.

  • According to Kay, “The last alternative seems to offer the best chance for man’s survival.”

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  • Construction Ecology is about constructing built environments which have integrity and the ability to adapt.

  • Design processes need to be about setting in motion an evolutionary process within the built environment.