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Buildings – Automatic modeling

ORNL’s modeling tool simulates the energy efficiency of buildings by automating data received from satellite images. The tool was tested on buildings in the Chattanooga area. Credit: Joshua New/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed a modeling tool that identifies cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities in existing buildings across the United States.

Using supercomputing, the energy modeling method assesses building types, systems, use patterns and prevailing weather conditions.

“Manually collecting and organizing data for energy modeling is a time-consuming process and is used in only a small percentage of retrofit performance projects,” ORNL’s Joshua New said.

The team’s modeling approach applies automation to extract a building’s floor area and orientation parameters from publicly available data sources such as satellite images. Researchers tested the tool on more than 175,000 buildings in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area, demonstrating energy-saving opportunities.

“We can model a building in minutes from a desktop computer,” New said. “This is the next level of intelligence for energy-saving technologies.”

Future plans include making the tool openly available to help reduce energy demand, emissions and costs for America’s homes and businesses.