MIT Researchers Build Citywide Building Energy Model Of Boston

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Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have built the most complex building energy model of the City of Boston for use in city planning and climate goals.

Christoph Reinhart, associate professor of architecture, and Carlos Cerezo, a PhD student in the Building Technology Program, together with colleagues from the MIT Sustainable Design Lab (SDL), have developed what MIT is describing as “a citywide urban building energy model of unprecedented scale and spatio-temporal detail.” Specifically, the new model estimates the gas and electricity demand of every building in Boston for every hour of every day of the year — that’s nearly 100,000 buildings in total.


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

The model will be put to use by the City of Boston in determining when and how buildings consume electricity and heating fuel, and will help officials “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.” Specifically, Reinhart and Cerezo expect the new model to be used by policymakers and planners to focus in on problem areas — such as “buildings responsible for driving peak electricity demand on a hot summer afternoon.” Determining where these problem areas are will allow officials to better determine where energy savings can be created.

“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,” added Carlos Cerezo. “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.”

Next for Reinhart and his team is validating the model against actual energy consumption data.

“We’ll do this using any building-level energy dataset that we can get our hands on, so the models become more and more accurate,” Reinhart explained. “Ultimately, our goal is for every city in the world to rely on a citywide energy model to meaningfully manage its future energy supply and carbon emissions.”

A lengthier explanation of the creation of the model and the data used can be found over at MIT News

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

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