Two interactive visualizations reveal how the bustling activity on Northeastern’s campus is fueled by energy consumed by the buildings on campus and help foster increased awareness, understanding and ultimately better decision making for the optimization of energy usage.

Cities today are increasingly pervaded by systems, networks, and devices that incorporate digital technology, are networked, and generate enormous amounts of data that are linked to their operations. This data is incidental to human activity, generated and captured in the everyday activities of urban life, and thus reveals the diverse and complex facets of the city and its inhabitants in real-time. Work with this data can contribute to revealing novel insights into human activity in urban spaces, support methods to optimize system operations and inform other correlated contexts opportunistically.

With cities accounting for approximately two thirds of the global demand for energy, it is of particular interest to work with data generated by their energy systems to optimize energy consumption. Large non-domestic buildings are a particular focus of attention, due to their sizable demands and associated environmental impacts such as CO2 emissions (commercial buildings account for nearly 20% of the US national energy consumption, or 12% of the national contribution to annual global greenhouse gas emissions).

Interactive visualizations of data from urban systems represent a powerful way to foster understanding and provide access to this information to a broader audience. “Words and sentences must, by necessity, come only one at a time in linear, logical order. Systems happen all at once […] To discuss them properly, it is necessary somehow to use a language that shares some of the same properties as the phenomena under discussion. Pictures work for this language better than words, because you can see all the parts of a picture at once.” Donella H. Meadows

The two interactive visualizations ‘Data Orchestra’ and ‘City of Peaks’ enable a broader audience to explore large amounts of systems data on energy consumption and social/environmental factors to foster increasing awareness, understanding and ultimately better decision making for the optimization of energy usage.

Kristian Kloeckl (PI), Jeffrey Weng, Jennifer Heintz
Additional support during phase one: Corey Hoard, Mavez Dabas, Peyton Tiroff, Yuecan Fan

More information

With technical support from
Northeastern University Energy Group at the Facilities Division, Office of the University Registrar, Marketing and Communications.

Special thanks to Joe Ranahan.

This project is part of the Tier 1 Grant initiative “Institutional Data and Energy Flows”

PIs: Kristian Kloeckl, Guevara Noubir, Matthias Ruth