Designing for Zero Energy and Zero Carbon on a Multi-Building Scale Using URBANopt: Preprint

Zahra Fallahi, Sammy Houssainy, Jiazhen Ling, Matt Leach, Lauren Klun, Michelle Slovensky

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Groundbreaking efforts are necessary to mitigate contributors increasing impacts of climate change. In parallel to inventing pioneering clean energy technologies it is even more fundamental to rethink designing energy systems within a singular facility and collectively to function as a district. Facilities should not be continuously passive by just consuming; there is a need to shift to perform more dynamically. Designing for zero energy and zero carbon on a multi-building scale can uncover opportunities for building energy efficiency, decarbonization, demand flexibility, and resiliency that are not accessible at an individual building scale. This approach can be challenging without innovative tools to evaluate the multitude of possibilities. As an investigated result, we highlight the use of a campus-scale energy modeling platform - URBANopt™ - for the expansion of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) South Table Mountain campus in Golden, Colorado. Programmatic growth included the design of three new all-electric, zero-energy, and zero-carbon, mixed used buildings (a combination of research laboratories and office space). This investigation is critical to NREL reaching net-zero emissions for its operational footprint, which will occur in phases over the next decade. Leveraging URBANopt's capabilities, we evaluate 1) high-performance building energy efficiency and decarbonization measures, 2) 4th generation district heating and cooling (4th GDHC) systems, 3) optimized onsite generation and energy storage assets that meet zero-energy and zero-carbon targets at minimum life-cycle costs, and 4) cost-optimal distributed energy technology mixes, dispatch strategies, and associated capacities that increase resiliency to grid outages. This work demonstrates the use and capabilities of URBANopt through a real-world case study on a multi-building scale.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2022
Event2022 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Pacific Grove, California
Duration: 21 Aug 202226 Aug 2022


Conference2022 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings
CityPacific Grove, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-83457


  • community energy model
  • community-scale zero energy
  • URBANopt
  • zero energy


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