System with the potential to subsidize city management allows mapping of numerous urban phenomena; use must be public and free.

Led by geographer Luís Antônio Bittar Venturi, a research team from the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) has just registered a patent for a brand-new tool for urban planning. The system, registered with the name Methods for Managing Urban Phenomena and Use of the Same, could efficiently subsidize urban management, as well as the planning of suppliers of basic services, like energy, for example. The patent will come out in the name of the RCGI and the use of the tool must be public and free, since both Shell, one of the Centre’s sponsors, and the RCGI have already announced that they will waive any eventual rights over it.

“We have created a system for mapping urban phenomena that provides the spatial dimension of their occurrence, ranking them according to different hierarchies. The tool has many advantages: it is dynamic, and can be updated at any time; it allows making projections for the future; it can be used to map any subject and can be replicated in any city of the world, as long as the context in which it is involved is taken into consideration,” says Venturi, the coordinator of the RCGI’s Project 28.

He explains that the system unites conceptual, methodological and technical elements.

“The conceptual elements are chosen based on the subject that one wants to map. For example: the energy vulnerability of São Paulo residences, one of the maps that we created. The first step is to study the concept of vulnerability, in order to choose the indicators that we will feed into the system. We reviewed the available literature, to discover which energy vulnerability indicators would help us: number of trees per hectare, proximity to priority areas, if the network is aerial or underground…. Remembering that different cities will have different indicators, according to the local reality.”

Then, the indicators are placed into an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) framework created by Thomas L. Saaty.

“This is a proven method that helps us place the indicators in the matrix and allows us to give different weights to each indicator. Taking the case of the energy vulnerability of São Paulo’s residences, we know that in the Morumbi district, for example, the density of trees per hectare has more weight that in an area without trees. For that reason, the framework organizes the indicators with different weights.” According to Venturi, the scientific and analytic dimension is specifically found in attributing different weights to each indicator. “This is not merely a technical procedure. The choice is made by discussing each indicator within the context of the city in which one is involved.”

Finally, the framework is inserted into a Geographic Information System (GIS), specifically, the ArcGIS, and then a map is obtained.

“But it is a dynamic map that can be changed and constantly updated. At any moment, it is possible to insert or change the weight of an indicator, and the tool will generate a more precise map.”

Classes and scenarios – The system also is able to classify and rank the results.

“The Map of the Energy Vulnerability for Residential Areas in São Paulo, which is our example that is known and has made news nationwide, orders space into four classes of vulnerability: very high, high, medium, and low. For instance, it is possible to map areas of risk in the city of São Paulo. The system will provide the space of the areas of risk, in different classes: highest risk, medium risk, low risk…. Another example: urban mobility. We can obtain a map of the areas of greater or less mobility…. And this can also be done for water supply, urban violence, and other phenomena. We were able to map the areas of more or of less violence and, then, rank them as to the intensity of the phenomenon.”

Furthermore, it is possible to predict scenarios.

“We made an emissions map, taking into account that we currently use natural gas and electricity in homes, 27% and 73%, respectively. The idea was to create a future scenario, considering parity in the use of the energy sources: 50% natural gas and 50% electricity. What would happen to the quality of the air, since we would be burning more hydrocarbons? Using the database of the IBGE by census sector and by residence (how many people, on average, live in each residence in a given region, we created classes of emissions intensity, in great detail, by area. The detailing is so extensive that, within the same census sector, it is possible to have several classes. We can also generate an overall number, an average, which was done, in this case: we calculated that, if we used electricity and natural gas in equal proportions, there would be a 2.5% increase in emissions in the city, as a whole,” Venturi revealed.

The patent registration includes the names of Venturi and of the researchers of his team on Project 28: Greta Yale Lima dos Santos, Alexandre Vastella Ferreira de Melo, Felipe Ferraz Machado, and Pedro Paulo Fernandes da Silva. According to the coordinator of the group, the support of the USP innovation agency was fundamental for them to be able to achieve the various stages of the registration process.