How Can Cities Use Urban-Scale Building Energy Modeling?

Janet Reyna, Amir Roth, Andrew Burr, Michael Specian

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Whole-building energy modeling (BEM) is a multi-purpose tool for building energy efficiency, supporting design, code development and compliance, green labeling, incentive programs, and even building operations. A new buzz-prefix making its way around the BEM community is 'urban-scale'. But what is urban-scale BEM (UBEM)? And can it help cities--or other entities--save energy? We describe a taxonomy of UBEM based on the interactions that are modeled between buildings and between buildings and other systems. Each type of UBEM supports different analyses and applications. We describe each UBEM type and, using a survey of sustainability managers in major U.S. cities, give examples of how it is currently used in practice or could be used in the future. The four types of UBEM are 'Portfolio', 'District', 'Weather', and 'System' BEM. Portfolio BEM considers no interactions between buildings and no other systems. It is conventional BEM repeated on multiple buildings. It is also by far the most commonly used UBEM with applications to retrofit screening and targeting.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2018
Event2018 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Pacific Grove, California
Duration: 12 Aug 201817 Aug 2018


Conference2018 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings
CityPacific Grove, California

Bibliographical note

Available from ACEEE: see

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-71695


  • buildings
  • energy modeling
  • residential
  • UBEM
  • urban scale


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