Urbanization is a global trend: Since 2007 more than 50% of the world’s population have been living in urban areas, and rates of urbanization are continuing to rise everywhere. This growth in urbanization has led to an increased demand for natural resources, in particular non-metallic minerals such as stones, sand and clay, which account for one third of the entire flow of materials. Generally, these materials are traded within regional markets. This close geographical link between the demand for building materials in urban areas and the material supply in the hinterland leads to massive interventions in the natural environment and landscape. These urban–rural linkages can be revealed by applying Material Flow Analysis (MFA) to the built environment in order to trace the flows of building materials. The objective of this paper is to present a method for quantifying regional material flows by considering the supply and demand of building materials. This will be applied to the Vietnamese case study area of Hanoi and its hinterland province Hoa Binh. The results indicate a consumption of almost 60% of the construction mineral reserves in total secured by planning in the hinterland province considering a period of 15 years. However, this does not allow for the general conclusion that raw materials are sufficiently available. The sand reservoirs are only sufficient for eight years and clay reserves are used up after four years. This increases the need to exploit further raw material reserves, which are becoming increasingly scarce and results in stronger interventions in nature In order to safeguard the hinterland from the negative impacts of urbanization, a new understanding of resource efficiency is needed—one that acknowledges both resource efficiency in the construction of urban structures and appropriate resource conservation in the provision of the raw materials from the hinterland. This will require the creation of new integrated planning approaches between urban and regional planning authorities. Regional MFA is one way of realising such an approach.
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