Integration of Open-Source URBANopt and Dragonfly Energy Modeling Capabilities into Practitioner Workflows for District-Scale Planning and Design

Tanushree Charan, Christopher Mackey, Ali Irani, Ben Polly, Stephen Ray, Katherine Fleming, Rawad El Kontar, Nathan Moore, Tarek Elgindy, Dylan Cutler, Mostapha Roudsari, David Goldwasser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus Citations


High-performance districts and communities offer opportunities for reducing energy use, emissions, and costs, and can be instrumental in helping cities achieve their climate goals. The design of such communities requires identification of opportunities early on and their re-evaluation through-out the planning process. There is a need for energy modeling tools that connect 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) platforms to simulation engines, enabling detailed energy analysis of districts within the workflows and tools used by practitioners. This paper introduces the Dragonfly and URBANopt™ combined toolset that supports the creation of urban models from a range of geometry formats typically used by designers and planners, and provides an integrated pathway to simulate district-scale energy systems. The toolset is piloted by a global architecture and master planning firm to evaluate several key urban-scale technical questions for the design of a district in Chicago. The findings indicate that, while energy savings can be achieved through traditional architectural studies and enhancements to individual building efficiency, the modeling toolset helps identify additional savings and insights that can be achieved when considering district-scale energy systems. Finally, this study demonstrates how the Dragonfly/URBANopt toolset can integrate with master planning workflows, thereby enabling an iterative performance-based design process.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number5931
Number of pages28
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-80801


  • Distributed energy resources
  • District-and community scale energy modeling
  • Electric distribution system design
  • Grid-interactive efficient buildings
  • High-performance district design
  • Master planning
  • Net zero districts and communities
  • Urban building energy modeling


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