SEMINAR: Decarbonized urban buildings and energy systems: a report on progress and plans for the future
Professor in Construction Management, Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Leslie Norford is the George Macomber (1948) Professor in Construction Management in the Department of Architecture at MIT. His research focuses on reducing building energy use and associated resource consumption and carbon emissions, with recent emphasis on interactions of buildings with urban environments and with electricity grids. He has conducted measurement campaigns and numerical analyses of building energy consumption in Russia, China, Pakistan, the UK and Norway. The ongoing research of his group in the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) includes measurements and models of urban microclimates, with a focus on identifying strategies to reduce the urban heat island effect. Working with mechanical and electrical engineering students at MIT, he is identifying how control of HVAC systems can help electric utilities mitigate the impact of power fluctuations associated with wind and PV systems through provision of such services as power reserves and frequency regulation.
In the era that Crutzen and Stoermer have labeled the Anthropocene, increasing urbanization and an urgent need to lower global emissions of greenhouse gases combine to demand attention to the energy consumption and carbon emissions of the energy systems that serve urban buildings. This talk will review a series of research-group efforts in the last decade that in modest ways support the design and development of net-zero energy and carbon cities. Masdar city’s goal of a PV-powered net-zero-energy community prompted an effort to separate sensible and latent cooling and employ model-predictive control to leverage part-load performance and favorable diurnal variations in temperature. More recently, the thermodynamic inefficiencies of latent cooling via condensation on cooling coils has led to proposals for desiccant- and membrane-based systems with higher performance. Because buildings alter the energy balance in the near-surface regions of the urban boundary layer, their morphology, material properties and released heat can increase urban temperatures and therefore increase cooling loads. We and colleagues have represented the indoor and outdoor energy balances in both meteorological and nodal models; the latter have been implemented as a stand-alone urban weather generator, incorporated into design workflows based on Rhino/grasshopper and, we hope, will be represented in Modelica as well. Open-source simulation tools that embrace architects, planners and building-service engineers offer a path for innovate design of buildings and district-scale energy systems, variants of which will also be presented in the context of waste-heat recovery and a path to decarbonization.