Much emphasis is placed on the role of Net Zero Communities (NZCs) in achieving a sustainable future. Systems research on the topic, including the application of bio-inspired techniques already used on other human networks, is currently hindered by the lack of case studies documenting the structure and quantity of energy, water, and waste flows within realistic NZCs. This work proposes and preliminarily tests a method of generating a database of hypothetical-realistic NZCs by expanding the system boundaries for well-documented Eco-industrial Park (EIP) networks. The expansion includes residential and commercial actors from the community surrounding the EIP. Past studies using Ecological Network Analysis (ENA) to improve the environmental and economic performance of these EIPs have resulted in a quantitative database of case studies. Combining these industrial hubs to nearby residential, commercial, agricultural, etc. actors can generate potential multi-use networks on which similar design work can be conducted. Three EIP to NZC cases are generated and analyzed focusing on their system structure. Cyclicity, an ENA metric used to quantify the presence and complexity of cyclic pathways in a network, has been shown to promote the efficient use of resources in both biological and human networks. Cyclicity values for the original EIP networks, the community additions, and the potential NZC case studies reveals that there are many meaningful interactions that occur between actors that are only visible once the system boundaries are expanded to the NZC level. This offers a glimpse into the potential benefits of approaching the NZ problem, and sustainable living more generally, on a system scale — an analysis that will be further enabled by the generation of an NZC database initiated by this work.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.