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MIT researchers create citywide building energy model for Boston

Boston Citywide Energy Model simulated energy use in a 200-by-200-meter grid for the City of Boston. Image credit: Carlos Cerezo, Jamie Bemis, Tarek Rakha, and Christoph Reinhart/MIT Sustainable Design Lab

City governments in the age of climate change often find themselves in a predicament: It’s hard to create a more energy-efficient city without detailed information about how — and when — buildings consume electricity and heating fuel.

The City of Boston now has a powerful new tool for planning its energy future, thanks to pioneering work done by researchers at the MIT Sustainable Design Lab (SDL) and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, in collaboration with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

Christoph Reinhart, associate professor of architecture, and Carlos Cerezo, a PhD student in the Building Technology Program, together with their SDL colleagues, have developed a citywide urban building energy model of unprecedented scale and spatio-temporal detail. The model estimates the gas and electricity demand of every building in Boston — nearly 100,000 total — for every hour of every day of the year.

“Nobody has ever modeled a city the size of Boston at this level of detail,” Reinhart says. “It’s also the first time that these data are being used by a city to guide energy policy decisions.”

The model was announced this month by the City of Boston and the BRA as an integral part of the Boston Community Energy Study, commissioned by the city to help Boston stakeholders better understand the potential for community energy solutions and to identify specific project opportunities that could lower costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make Boston’s energy system more resilient.

“Community energy solutions such as targeted energy efficiency, district energy, microgrids, local energy generation, and energy storage represent an opportunity to fundamentally change the way our energy system works,” says Austin Blackmon, chief of energy, environment, and open space for Boston, “but to get there we need a better understanding of the existing system and a way to identify the most promising solutions.”

“Every city has long-term goals,” Cerezo says. “But nobody knows exactly how to plan for and measure them. With this model, the city has a map to help them target and reach those goals.”

Read the full story here: http://news.mit.edu/2016/mit-researchers-create-citywide-building-energy-model-boston-0222

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