Eco-Industrial Park

From Open Source Ecology
Jump to: navigation, search
Industrial Symbiosis Poster (click to enlarge)
Product Ecologies illustrate how the different tools and products of the GVCS work together. This includes how the tools utilize onsite resources for building a modern infrastructure. The goal is to create closed loop industrial ecologies that contribute to environmental and societal regeneration, as humanity regains balance with its natural life support systems.
Materials Ecology: The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) includes the areas of Agriculture, Housing, Energy, Production, and Materials. On the materials front - this is how some of the GVCS tools are involved.


"An eco-industrial park (EIP) or estate is a community of manufacturing and service businesses located together on a common property. Member businesses seek enhanced environmental, economic, and social performance through collaboration in managing environmental and resource issues. By working together, the community of businesses seeks a collective benefit that is greater than the sum of individual benefits each company would realize by only optimizing its individual performance."

"The goal of an EIP is to improve the economic performance of the participating companies while minimizing their environmental impacts. Components of this approach include green design of park infrastructure and plants (new or retrofitted); cleaner production, pollution prevention; energy efficiency; and inter-company partnering. An EIP also seeks benefits for neighboring communities to assure that the net impact of its development is positive."

(Lowe, Ernest. 2004. Defining Eco-Industrial Parks: the Global Context and China. Report prepared for the Policy Research Center for Environment and Economy, State Environmental Protection Administration, China)


In an EIP, the use of energy and materials is optimized in such a way that the output of one process is the input into another ("industrial ecosystem"). These arrangements may result in cost savings and waste reduction. The design of the industrial infrastructure attempts to maximize economic and environmental efficiencies. When there is a strong agricultural component, the name Agro-Eco-Industrial Park is sometimes used, emphasizing the agricultural component with food, fuel and fiber as products.

Benefits of eco-industrial parks include:

  • monetary benefits to companies (lower production costs / bargain prices, lower energy consumption, less transportation, less waste)
  • environmental benefits (less demand on natural resources, less waste in all forms, transportation via pipes instead of trucks)
  • societal benefits (jobs, cheap heating, better air quality, better health)
Solar Economy and product ecology: basis of the eco-industrial park.

Industrial Symbiosis

(Section kindly contributed by Ernest Lowe, CEO of Indigo Development).

Industrial symbiosis (IS) is the most familiar subject of research and application in industrial ecology. The essence of this approach is collaboration among industrial plants and utilities to increase efficiency of resource use by creating a system for trading material, energy, and water by-products (“wastes”). An authoritative definition of IS broadens the field to include sharing of utility infrastructure and joint procurement of common services. IS is also referred to as: by-product exchange, by-product synergy, industrial ecosystem, industrial metabolism, green twinning, and zero emissions network. - these all refer to similar ideas. An eco-industrial park is a more comprehensive framework for development.

This subject is of interest to energy engineers and managers because the primary goal of IS projects is to achieve higher efficiency in using resources in order to meet the challenge of increasing costs and declining stocks of major commodities. By reusing otherwise unmarketed by-products through a network of exchanges, participants increase the efficiency of energy generation and capture energy embedded in material and water outputs. They also reduce costs of disposal, may receive revenues for the by-products, and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. A further benefit to the economy is reduced public costs of disposal.

System Design

There seem to be two different basic approaches to establishing an EIP: the self-organizing and the engineered system. The self-organizing system is characterized by facilitated organic growth (without any overall engineering design) of connections between companies - the system gradually develops like an organism. In contrast, the engineered system approach relies on detailed analysis of data as well as local / regional resource and energy flows to find possibilities to maximize efficiency in interaction.

Design options include site design, park infrastructure, individual facilities and shared support services. System components include natural systems (e.g. solar, wind, biomass, water resources etc.), energy (e.g. steam), material flows (e.g. co-locating brewery + mushroom farm + pig farm), water flows (different grades of water, e.g. processed/used water), management and support services (e.g. training center, cafeteria, day care center, offices, transportation logistics).

Possible Tenants

The following list was excerpted with modifications from this page, which contains a lot of specific examples and business models. Tenants on an agro-eco-industrial estate may include:

1. Suppliers of equipment, energy, materials, and services to farmers (field equipment, equipment for monitoring of nutrients, co-generation of energy for food processing, biomass by-products, ethanol fermentation, bioenergy crops, Integrated Pest Management services, consulting and training firms, agricultural extension agencies,...)

2. Food processing and distribution firms (distribution center for fruits and vegetables, community supported agriculture, dairy processing, meat/fish/poultry processing)

3. Firms utilizing by-products from any part of the system (energy generators, manufacturers using biomass by-products, ethanol/methane, animal feed processors, greenhouses and aquaculture ponds, composting yard)

4. Intensive food production located in or near an agro-estate (landscaping, greenhouses and aquaculture ponds, integrated brewery, etc.)

5. Other potential recruitment targets (manufacturers using primary biomaterials such as hemp or bamboo, etc.; agritourism)

Potential Difficulties / Problems

  • potential as an obstacle to further evolution in technologies (e.g. continued reliance on toxic materials or obsolete technologies just because inter-company networking permits it)
  • complex inter-firm dependencies (stability of the park as a whole may be at risk if a crucial element is lost)
  • risk of higher development costs (e.g. from the design process, site preparation, infrastructure features, construction processes, aspects of building design)
  • with public-private partnerships: possibility of too much dependence upon public agencies and too little involvement of private sector players
  • risk of overstating the case: ecological benefits and benefits of closing material flow loops may be limited

Agro-Eco-Industrial Park as the core of a farming community

A rationally designed farming community may have an eco-industrial park as its center. The surrounding farms would be suppliers of raw materials, such as biomass. The core park would would be the central hub with processing facilities and other specialized services.

Related pages on this wiki