1652313170419 B 0416 News Boston

Innovative Energy Model Powers Boston’s Efficiency Efforts

April 12, 2016

Building-level data helps decision-makers identify solutions.

A powerful new tool is set to help Boston stakeholders identify cost-effective energy efficiency and resiliency solutions. Created by MIT researchers, the Boston Citywide Energy Model estimates the gas and electricity demand of the nearly 100,000 buildings in Boston for every hour, every day.

“Nobody has ever modeled a city the size of Boston at this level of detail,” says Christoph Reinhart, Associate Professor of Architecture at MIT, who partnered with Ph.D. student Carlos Cerezo and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and Sustainable Design Lab to create the model’s unprecedented scale and detail. “It’s also the first time that these data are being used by a city to guide energy policy decisions.”

To create the model, the team obtained the city’s comprehensive geographic information systems dataset, which included information on building geometry, the uses of all of Boston’s parcels of land and property tax records. All 92,000 buildings in the city were sorted into 48 different archetypes and 12 use categories (for example, residential or office). Each archetype was assigned characteristics that accounted for HVAC systems, use of electricity, thermostat settings, likely time occupancy, wall and roof structure, and other features. These details will help identify problem areas, such as buildings that drive the highest peak electricity demand on hot days, and illustrate where to find the best opportunities for energy savings.

The scale of the model will also make it easier to identify holistic solutions that involve multiple buildings. The researchers identified several sites that could benefit from shared combined heat and power installations, PV panels, battery storage and ground source heat pumps.

“If you have a facility consuming a lot of electricity at certain hours, you need buildings around them that can use that waste heat,” Cerezo says. “Our model is built for figuring out where these things happen.”

Other cities in the region with similar building practices, such as Providence, can now utilize Boston’s building stock library to perform their own analysis rather than reinventing the computations behind this energy model. A template is also available for Kuwait, and the team is currently developing new versions for Lisbon, Portugal, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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