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MIT’s New Tools for Sustainability-Minded Designers and Developers
MIT researchers, in collaboration with China’s Tsinghua University, have recently created a new set of tools to evaluate the energy performance of large-scale development projects. The tools are a response to China’s rapid urbanization and succession of ever-larger housing and infrastructure projects. The researchers’ goal was to help shape the process of urbanization one neighborhood at a time, producing cleaner energy patterns than would otherwise exist.
The set of tools includes a pattern book of neighborhood typologies from around the world, which have proven to be energy efficient. The research team, led by Dennis Frenchman and Christopher Zegras from MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning, intends for these low-energy forms to replace existing typologies, which were developed without regards to energy performance.
The other tool is an Energy Proforma that uses a single number to represent the lifecycle energy consumption of a neighborhood project. The Proforma compiles 3 types of energy data: how the neighborhood form affects the type and amount of transportation used, the amount of energy used for operations such as heating and cooling and the amount of energy consumed in construction. Ideally this measurement will be adopted as the standard energy assessment within Chinese public policy. This should allow planners and officials to easily compare different development proposals.
The tools were first put to the test this past summer by five teams of graduate students from MIT and Tsinghua University in Beijing. They used the tools to develop proposals for new Clean Energy Neighborhoods in a town being planned on a new high-speed rail line. The designs were assessed to not only be exceedingly energy efficient, but also highly livable. After all, there is no reason why the two should be mutually exclusive.
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