Aug/17
Modeling Urban Sustainability - Energy, Daylight and Walkability

MIT ARCHITECTURE Executive Education Class

August 17-21 2015

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

Cities across the planet are growing at an unprecedented speed. To accommodate the rising number of residents, city governments need to densify and expand while managing their carbon emissions. At the same time, to attract and maintain a competitive workforce, cities have to ensure that the quality of their built environment is not sacrificed at the expense of density. The overall goal is thus to design sustainable, high density neighborhoods that combine building resource–efficiency with quality indoor and outdoor spaces, which in turn support community building and favor human powered modes of transportation.

To help city governments and their consultants to develop such neighborhoods, the Sustainable Design Lab at MIT has developed an urban modeling platform called umi. This platform calculates urban performance indicators related to operational and embodied energy use as well as access to daylight, neighborhood walkability and outdoor comfort. Case studies with local governments and academic partners are currently ongoing in Boston, Kuwait City, Abu Dhabi, Lisbon and the MIT campus.

In this first-of-its-kind, hands-on, full week executive education program the umi development team will present the science and models underlying umi in a manner that is accessible to an audience of urban planners, city governments, utilities, consultants and architects. Participants will acquire a range of urban analysis techniques and be exposed to results from several umi case studies world-wide. The main simulation programs used will be Rhinoceros 3D as well as umi (see below). Specific simulation outputs that will be discussed are:

  • Operational and embodied building energy use
  • Neighborhood-wide daylight availability
  • Walkability
  • Annual outdoor thermal comfort

During the first day participants will get an overview of umi’s simulation capabilities and how the results may be applied by various urban stakeholder and decision makers. The following three days will be dedicated to the different umi modules for operational energy (1 day), embodied energy (1/2 day), daylight (1/2 day), outdoor comfort (1/2 day) and walkability (1/2 day). Throughout the three days, participants will work in groups on a series of hands-on exercises related to an urban project of their choice. This may be an ongoing real world project that participants are involved in. On the fifth day participants will start integrating their previous results and practice how to present them using umi’s new results visualizer. Participants will further have the opportunity to go over go over specific problems or simulation challenges with the instructors.

Program Instructors

The overall program will be led and delivered by Christoph Reinhart, head of the Sustainable Design Lab at MIT. Other instructors include:

  • Carlos Cerezo, doctoral student at the Sustainable Design Lab
  • Timur Dogan, incoming Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at Cornell
  • Tarek Rakha, incoming Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at Syracuse
  • Cody Rose, research fellow at the Sustainable Design Lab

Program Prerequisites

To follow the different program exercises, participants should have working knowledge in a CAD environment preferably Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino). For certain exercises, participants should also be familiar with Rhino’s parametric simulation plug-in Grasshopper. The latest version of umi, a Rhino plug-in, will be provided to participants during the workshop. Participants are required to bring a newer Windows Laptop. A detailed list of programs that are to be installed before the workshop will be sent to participants before about a week before the program starts. Please see the FAQs pdf located on the right under “links” for more information about requirements.

Program Costs and Credits

You may register below. Please see the FAQs pdf located on the right under “links” for more information about fee options. If you have any questions, please contact arch-exec-ed@mit.edu at the Department of Architecture at MIT.

AIA credits: the course is eligible for 35 LU|HSW credits.



Fee options




Please note: SA+P reserves the right to cancel the class up to 4 weeks in advance due to low registration. In case of cancellation by SA+P, payments will be reimbursed in full.