NexSys researchers generate new dataset of 1 million residential buildings 

A new paper co-authored by NexSys researchers presents an open dataset of characteristics of 1 million residential, urban buildings, based on data from buildings in Dublin.

NexSys researcher and study lead author Usman Ali

The dataset  – which is freely available here – includes building features such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, and building fabric properties such as U-values for the walls, roofs, floors, doors, and windows. Parameters related to heating, lighting, interior equipment, photovoltaic systems, and hot water energy demand are also available.

The researchers used annual building energy simulations to generate the dataset which includes data on terraced, detached, semi-detached, and bungalow-style urban residential buildings. 

NexSys researchers Dr Usman Ali, Senior Energy Systems Researcher in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in UCD, Prof Neil Hewitt, Professor of Energy, Faculty of Computing, Eng. & Built Environment in Ulster University, and Dr James O’Donnell, Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in UCD, are co-authors on the paper, which is published in Data in Brief

“The dataset holds immense potential for future research in the field of building energy analysis and modelling,” write the authors in the paper. 

“We hope that it [the dataset] will be a valuable resource for researchers – including Nexsys researchers studying electricity consumption or renewable technology uptake for instance – and also for policymakers looking at urban building performance and efficiency,” explains lead author Dr Usman Ali, who is based in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and UCD Energy Institute in UCD. 

“It took two months to run the simulations needed to generate the dataset,” he adds.

The modelling tools jEPlus, EnergyPlus and Design Builder were used for the computer simulations. Outputs of the models include Energy Use Intensity (EUI in kWh/(m2*year)) and Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) labels, categorised on an A to G rating scale.

In a separate paper, Usman and colleagues used machine learning techniques to interrogate this dataset. One of the questions they looked at was the impact of retrofitting a building with and without PV on building performance and energy rating. As a next step, the research team plans to extend this GIS-based modelling work to create a dataset of all Irish buildings.

UCD Energy Institute researchers Divyanshu Sood (PhD student), Sobia Bano (PhD student) and Cathal Hoare (senior energy systems researcher) are also co-authors on the paper. 

The four type of Dublin buildings used in the models

The research was part-funded by NexSys, and part-funded by a US-Ireland R&D Partnership.


Full publication details:

Usman Ali, Sobia Bano, Mohammad Haris Shamsi, Divyanshu Sood, Cathal Hoare, Wangda Zuo, Neil Hewitt, and James O’Donnell. “Urban Residential Building Stock Synthetic Datasets for Building Energy Performance Analysis.” Data in Brief (2024): 110241

Link to dataset: 

NexSys and Energy Institute researchers take part in UCD-ESRI Energy Policy research conference

NexSys and Energy Institute researchers take part in UCD-ESRI Energy Policy research conference

On 16 January, energy policy researchers and collaborators gathered in Dublin’s ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) to take part in the UCD-ESRI Energy Policy Research Conference.

The event featured presentations from researchers in UCD Energy Institute and ESRI, many of whom are also based in NexSys, showcasing a range of research from across both organisations related to energy policy.

Kicking off proceedings, Prof Alan Barrett, Chief Executive Officer of ESRI, and Prof Andrew Keane, Director of the Energy Institute and NexSys, welcomed the full house of delegates and speakers in what promised to be a fantastic conference. 

In the first session, focused on renewable energy and the decarbonisation transition and chaired by Anita Vollmer of ESRI, Joe Wheatley, energy policy research expert at UCD, presented research conducted with Prof Lisa Ryan, of UCD’s Energy Institute and NexSys, around modelling the uptake of solar PV electricity in households in Ireland.

Next up, Dr Kelly de Bruin, senior research officer at ESRI and also with NexSys, presented research on modelling the impacts of the transition in the Irish economy through electrification. This was followed by a talk by Dr Ramon Varghese, postdoctoral researcher at UCD working with Dr Vikram Pakrashi of UCD and NexSys. Ramon spoke about offshore wind turbines, and his research on using subsea micropiles as a solution for offshore wind energy development. 

The next session, focusing on economic and social impacts and chaired by Prof Lisa Ryan, started with a presentation by Dr Niall Farrell of ESRI about the equity and efficiency effects of energy subsidy cost-recovery. This was followed by Dr Nessa Winston of UCD and NexSys, who presented research on energy poverty focused on the impacts of residential and transport poverty on the educational and mental health outcomes of young people in Ireland. The research was conducted in collaboration with Dr Monika Da Silva Pedroso, postdoctoral researcher at UCD, Orla Dingley, PhD student at UCD with NexSys, and Dr Paraic Carroll, based in UCD and lead of the NexSys transport strand. 

The final presentation of the day was given by ESRI’s Dr Miguel Tovar Reanos and was about the role of financial literacy in experiencing fuel poverty. He presented findings based on a survey of 900 Irish homeowners.

Researcher spotlight: Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian 

Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian is Lecturer/Assistant Professor (Ad Astra Fellow) in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering, and work package leader of WP3 of the NexSys Offshore Wind Strand, entitled “Monitoring”. We learn more about his research below.

What is your NexSys research about and what are you working on at the moment?

My research is about employing novel sensing systems and data analytic methods to reduce the cost of operation and maintenance and de-risking the wind energy sector.

What first got you interested in your research area?

The challenging and complex environment that offshore wind turbines are operating in and how we can use fundamental science to overcome these challenges.

What is one interesting fact about your research area people may not know about?

Data collected from cheap sensors installed on wind turbines can tell you many facts about their structural condition. We can detect structural anomalies at their early stage and extend the life-time of offshore wind turbines using these information.

What is the wider relevance of your research to the energy transition?

Considering the number of wind farms reaching their end-of-life, ensuring safe and profitable life extension will have great environmental impact by avoiding the need for new wind turbines. In addition, it is expected that, that up to 5% reduction in the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) can be achieved by extending a turbine’s lifetime by up to 15 years.

NexSys researchers take part in Wind Energy Trade Show 2023

NexSys attended the Wind Energy Trade Show 2023 from October 11 and 12 at the Sport Ireland Campus in Blanchardstown, Dublin. 

NexSys funded investigator Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian (pictured above).

NexSys researchers from the offshore wind strand were at the NexSys stand of the trade show (stand A23), and NexSys funded investigator Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian (pictured above), based in UCD, presented findings from the NexSys offshore wind strand on the Research and Innovation stage on Wednesday October 11 at 3pm. 

NexSys PhD researchers Behnam Mohseni-Gharyehsafa (right in the image above) and Amirhossein Taran (left).

Dr Vikram Pakrashi, Lead of the Offshore Wind strand of NexSys and also based at UCD, said: “interdisciplinary excellence couldn’t be more timely and relevant than offshore wind for Ireland, and for the world. This is a rapidly evolving sector and fundamental to Ireland’s aspirations around clean, consistent and competitive energy supply. There is a tangible need for academic excellence to go hand in hand with industrial relevance. In the NexSys Offshore Wind strand, we tackle some of the key challenges in an Interdisciplinary manner and in close collaboration with industrial partners, leading to safer lifetime performance, improved operations & maintenance and cutting-edge innovations by assimilating fundamental physics, advanced experimentation, sensor networks, high-end computing and data analytics/AI.”

PhD researcher Mohadeseh (Mahdis) Ashkarkalaei at the NexSys stand 

NexSys industry partners RWE and ESB were exhibitors at the event. 

Speaking of the collaboration between RWE and NexSys, Peter Leffroy, Director, RWE, said: “collaboration is going to be at the heart of the energy system being able to achieve the ambitious and challenging decarbonisation targets that have been set. The NexSys programme is a superb example of what such collaboration should look like. RWE is delighted to become a partner in this programme and we are looking forward to engaging in mapping out the evolution of the energy system into the next generation.” 

Marguerite Sayers, Deputy CEO, ESB, said: “ESB is a founding member of the original partnership with UCD and industry and we are very pleased to continue that partnership through NexSys. Over that time we have gained huge insights from our involvement with UCD Energy Institute on the many challenges of moving to a decarbonised energy system. We expect the NexSys programme to provide further learnings and opportunities for engagement with all of the stakeholders involved. Decarbonising our energy system is central to ESB Net-Zero by 2040 Strategy and we recognise the value of collaboration between industry and academia in meeting this challenge.”

NexSys funded investigator Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian (left) and PhD student Behnam Mohseni-Gharyehsafa (right).

About the Trade Show 

Wind Energy Ireland said the event would “bring together Ireland’s growing domestic supply chain, the key players in the global wind energy industry and cutting edge research from Ireland and internationally for the country’s first Wind Energy Trade Show. Already a leader in onshore wind energy, Ireland has the project pipeline and the determination to become a force in offshore renewables as well. The 2023 Trade Show will showcase the exciting potential for new entrants into the Irish market and introduce to the world Irish companies that are not just competing here but are ready to compete internationally.”

“This event will be a meeting place where the world’s major players and key industry leaders will chart a vision for Ireland’s energy future alongside a rapidly growing network of local and European suppliers all looking to invest in our energy revolution.”

“The Trade Show will showcase the exciting potential for new entrants into the Irish market and introduce to the world, Irish companies that are not only ready, but willing and able to compete internationally.”

Find our more about Wind Energy Ireland and the trade show here: 

Find out more about NexSys

Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) is an all-island multidisciplinary research programme, involving nine different research institutions, alongside industry partners from across the energy sector. The programme’s key aims include tackling the challenges of energy decarbonisation, and developing evidence-based pathways for a just, net-zero energy system.

NexSys is financially supported by Science Foundation Ireland under the SFI Strategic Partnership Programme (Grant Number 21/SPP/3756), industry co-funding partners, and a philanthropic donation by Mr David O’Reilly. NexSys’ nine industry co-funding partners are: EirGrid, ESB Group, Davy, Atlantic Hub, CIE, RWE, EPRI, Gas Networks Ireland and SSE Airtricity. In addition, NexSys has an extensive network of collaborating partners, which will be essential in providing an evidence base for policy and delivery of services.

Researcher spotlight: Alireza Etemad

In this Researcher Spotlight, we chat to NexSys PhD researcher Alireza Etemad, based in UCD’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and find out more about his work on district heating systems.

What is your NexSys research about and what are you working on at the moment?
I’m exploring how modern district heating systems can be more efficient and integrated with urban infrastructures. My current focus? Tapping into the potential of data centers—transforming their waste heat into a sustainable energy source for heating our buildings. My PhD research project is entitled: Integration of Supply, Demand, and Policy for Development of 5th Generation District Heating Systems.

How did you first become interested in research?
During my tenure as a mechanical engineer in large thermal plants in my home country of Iran, I observed significant energy wastage in industrial setups. Also, as a tech enthusiast, I always followed the AI development news, and I always had this curiosity of using AI in energy systems operation and optimization. These ignited a passion to research and develop more efficient energy systems, leading me to the academic world.

What is one interesting fact about your research area people may not know about?
Many urban establishments, like data centers and supermarkets, are potential goldmines of sustainable energy. With the right systems, we can harness this energy to heat our cities.

What is the wider relevance of your research to the energy transition?
Smart district heating systems are not just a technological upgrade—they’re a pathway to a sustainable future. By optimizing energy use and reducing waste, these systems support global climate goals and sustainable urban development.

What is something people may find surprising about you?
I’m deeply fascinated by history. Exploring ancient civilizations and their innovations gives me a fresh perspective on today’s challenges. For me, understanding the past is a way to navigate the present and shape a better future.

Learn more

To learn more about Alireza’s research, you can download a copy of his recent presentation at the EirGrid research forum which took place in Dublin in August 2023: