Urban Form and Energy

elementslab worked with Esri Canada to develop an approach for simulating building energy demand at neighbourhood to community scales and integrating those simulations with procedural methods for generating urban form.

Increasingly, municipalities of all sizes are planning for emissions reductions at the municipal scale. Therefore, understanding the interactions of urban form and energy for different patterns of development are critically important.

This project developed an approach for simulating built environment energy demand using urban form archetypes. These archetypes were developed from a spatial analysis of urban form patterns in municipalities across BC, and are broadly representative of the types of urban form present in most BC municipalities.

Our energy demand simulation approach adapted the existing Urban Modeling Interface developed at MIT. It uses a bottom-up approach, simulating energy demand for each individual building, as well as the interactions between buildings. A key feature of this approach is the ability to simulate not only current conditions, but possible future scenarios under different urban form, technological, or behavioural conditions.

An additional component of this research focused on converting the urban form archetypes into procedural rules using Esri’s CityEngine. This procedural approach makes the archetypes dynamic, allowing us to adapt road widths, land use, parcel sizes, zoning bylaws, etc. to more closely approximate local conditions in different municipalities within BC, and beyond.

Future research that builds from this project will incorporate building energy demand metrics directly into the procedural rules, so that urban form and metrics of performance can both be generated dynamically.

Project Profile

Sponsor: National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Esri Canada
elementslab Team: Sheryl Staub-French, Ronald Kellett, Jon Salter, Christina Bollo, Brendan Buchanan-Dee, Fausto Inomata, Juchan Kim, Alix Krahn
Esri Canada Team: Brent Hall, David Kossowsky, Michael Luubert