4.432 / 4.433
Modeling Urban Energy Flows for Sustainable Cities and Neighborhoods

Permission of instructor
Required of: 
Restricted elective for BSA, Arch minor

Note: Lab room changed from 8-205 to 5-234

U: 4.432; G: 4.433

In response to global environmental challenges, city governments world-wide have developed ambitious long-term GHG emission targets, heavily focused on reducing and managing building energy demands. While energy use is a key factor in producing a sustainable and resilient built environment, very few individuals will move into a neighborhood solely because it consists of low energy buildings. More urgent selection criteria beyond safety include stimulating nearby jobs, good schools, a diversity of entertainment opportunities as well as healthy and attractive indoor and outdoor spaces that support human-powered transportation. A balanced urban planning approach is hence needed that supports the design of vibrant mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly innovating districts – along with their organic food oases and yoga studios – the likes of which have evolved worldwide from Cambridge to London and Seoul.

This hands-on survey course deals with the fundamentals and application of environmental urban performance simulations to urban design. Core topics include operational and embodied building energy use and affiliated carbon emissions, access to daylight, neighborhood walkability and outdoor thermal comfort. Additional topics that we will be reviewing are basic cash flow models to compare the economic viability of competing neighborhood proposals including health “co-benefits” as well as the simulation of crop yields from urban container farms. Throughout the term, students will work in groups and apply the course content to develop a neighborhood proposal for select sites in Chicago, Munich and San Francisco. A third focus area of the class is the impact assessment of climate change and the urban heat island effects on long-term building energy use and comfort. Previous course projects can be found at the MIT Sustainable Design Lab web site.

The class is open to all members of the MIT community. Previous exposure to building technology (through classes such as 4.401/4.464 and 4.421), design and/or urban planning are an assets since we will be working at the interface of these three fields. The instructor will ensure that all student groups are well balanced and have members representing all three disciplines.

Additional work required of students taking the graduate version.