This article on “Conceptualizing the built environment as a social-ecological system” by Sebastian Moffatt (CONSENSUS Institute) and Niklaus Kohler (University of Karlsruhe) published in Building Research & Information, Volume 36, Issue 3 May 2008 , pages 248-268 has an exciting Sankey diagram in the section ‘Current perspectives, promising methods, missing pieces’ (scroll down about half way).

The authors explain Sankey diagrams as an instrument of Material Flow Analysis (MFA)

“Sankey (directional flow) diagrams are often used to summarize the MFA visually as an entire connected and balanced system. In a Sankey diagram the material flows begin with inputs from nature, then flow into intermediary processes (any infrastructure used for processing, converting, storing, or regulating), and then into the various end use(s). After use, flows may be reconverted by infrastructure systems for reuse or recycling. Ultimately, all flows are directed to a category of output (waste products emitted into air, into water bodies or into landfills; long-term storage; export). The balanced accounting thus tracks every flow from source to sink.”

The original Sankey diagram shown in this article is for an resource efficient house, planned or built in New Delhi (India). It sports the water flows through five groups of processes (sources, converters, demands, re-converters, and sinks). The authors call it a “five-partition metabolic profile”, and suggest that it can be done not only for a single house, but “for the built environment at any scale, from parcel to urban region”.

The unit for the quantities given is not indicated, but I presume the water flows are in litres.

When reproducing the Sankey diagram (see above) I tried to make it a little more clearer by changing the order of the (invisible) nodes, thus avoiding crossing flows.

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