Urban planning simulation tools examine impact of new development

Taking an important step toward quantifying and analyzing the relationships among climatic conditions, urban morphology, land cover, and energy use—and using these relationships to inform energy-efficient urban development and planning—a research team funded in part by the Exascale Computing Project has produced tools for assimilating high-resolution urban terrain into regional weather models, determining building-by-building meteorology, and for extremely fast generation of building simulations for energy use analysis. The team’s test case, built on data from buildings in the Chicago Loop, shows that the morphology of even a small development newly added to a neighborhood affects not only its own microclimate, but also the microclimate of the original neighborhood, and that these changes in microclimate affect building energy use in both the new development and existing neighborhood. Their work was published in the August 2020 issue of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

The team’s work couples two of an ultimate set of four types of complex models representing city sectors interacting at the district level: the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF); TRANSIMS, an agent-based traffic simulation model; EnergyPlus, DOE’s building energy simulation model; and ChiSIM, an Argonne social interaction model. Their project takes advantage of new compute architectures available on pre-exascale machines to accelerate the time to solution for examining the small-scale processes related to interactions of factors in the urban setting. It also represents a prototype deployment of a multilayer data and software stack demonstrated on the Summit’s (pre-exascale) nodes. The capability to generate urban terrain inputs readable by the WRF model makes atmospheric parameter simulation in response to the morphology of new neighborhoods an analysis option previously unavailable to urban planners. In addition to facilitating tractable assessment of the impact of new development on existing urban areas, the team’s methodology provides information important to developing city-level emissions solutions for decreasing greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions, ultimately affecting both global climate and public health, and prepares for the next project step: evaluating how exhaust heat from building heating and cooling systems contributes to the ambient environment and urban heat island.


Allen-Dumas, Melissa R., Amy N. Rose, Joshua R. New, Olufemi A. Omitaomu, Jiangye Yuan, Marcia L. Branstetter, Linda M. Sylvester, Matthew B. Seals, Thomaz M. Carvalhaes, Mark B. Adams, Mahabir S. Bhandari, Som S. Shrestha, Jibonananda Sanyal, Anne S. Berres, Carl P. Kolosna, Katherine S. Fu, and Alexandra C. Kahl. “Impacts of the Morphology of New Neighborhoods on Microclimate and Building Energy.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 133 (August 2020): 110030. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2020.110030.