US, October 17, 2014: Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago are developing tools that merge urban design with scientific analysis to improve the decision-making process associated with large-scale urban developments.
One such tool, called LakeSim, has been prototyped with an initial focus on consumer-driven energy and transportation demand, through a partnership with the Chicago-based architectural and engineering design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Clean Energy Trust and developer McCaffery Interests.
To address the uncertainty of large-scale planning with so many complex variables, LakeSim creators have prototyped a new platform that seeks to help developers plan at massive scales while anticipating the ability to build in future scenarios such as climate change, improved efficiency in buildings and transportation systems and increased renewable energy and/or micro-grid applications.
LakeSim employs the specifications of dozens of building design types supplied by sources ranging from Department of Energy data libraries to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Each building type features unique structural parameters, allowing designers to pick and choose different types and place these in a virtual map.
With an emphasis on integrating scientific and engineering models into platforms used by industry, the project selected CityEngine, an interactive 3-D design system from Esri, as the central component of LakeSim.
CityEngine serves as the “dashboard” through which the urban designer interacts with the city designs. Computational models can be invoked to analyze changes with respect to energy demand over time, and the developers are looking to integrate other models.
The future goal of this map is to create an interconnected virtual city where changes to plans can be analysed in real time instead of weeks. Planners can refine and monitor development progress as individual buildings aggregate into zones, and zones etch out residential and commercial borders. With this in mind, one of the most important sectors where LakeSim hopes to assist in decision-making is energy. For this purpose, LakeSim employs the Energy Performance Standard Calculation Toolkit (EECalc) developed by Argonne and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
EECalc generates monthly estimates of a building’s, or block’s, thermal energy demand and consumption for heating and cooling. As each structure has unique architectural features, they also have unique demands on energy. Based on a number of end-user factors, including ventilation, lighting and heating and cooling, EECalc can assess the energy efficiency of an architectural design.
Source: Argonne National Laboratory