Collaborative Research: Optimization of Urban Designs for Air Quality and Energy Efficiency

The objective of this proposal is to increase knowledge for how environment and urban form interact. Its hypothesis is that optimal urban structures and layouts exist which can minimize energy use while also minimizing air pollution exposure.

An extremely fast and inexpensive energy use and dispersion modeling tool for urban areas will be developed by building on PIs previous work. The modeling system will utilize the unique computational parallelism afforded by graphics processing units (GPUs, that are regularly utilized in the video game industry), to run many simulations in an effort to train an optimization algorithm for determining optimal designs for urban structures and their layout. This proposed research will also utilize an interactive and immersive virtual environment to provide better understanding and refinement of the complex physical processes associated with the energy balance and pollutant dispersion in an urban setting.

Modeling capabilities that will be developed through this work will aid urban planners in developing useful and novel planning strategies to improve the sustainability of modern cities. The PIs will work with urban planners throughout the model development process. These modeling capabilities will also aid architects by providing them with a tool that not only analyzes isolated buildings, but also provides understanding regarding the interaction of multiple buildings during the design process. In addition, this proposal has a substantial outreach component designed to provide a unique educational opportunity for American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and other minorities to learn about various aspects of modeling in environmental engineering. Through our program, American Indian students from Northern Minnesota will be invited to a weeklong interactive learning symposium during each of the three years of the grant.

Lead Investigator: