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.

Notes

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 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2024.110241.

Link to dataset: https://data.mendeley.com/datasets/m6vv9k9gcd/ 

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 in the news: Dublin commuters prefer walking over bicycles and e-scooters in conjunction with public transport

Commuters in County Dublin prefer walking over bikes and e-scooters as a means of getting to and from work before or after a public transport journey, according to a study co-authored by NexSys researchers recently published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Cycling and Micromobility Research.

Micromobility – a term used to describe small, light electric vehicles such as bikes and e-scooters – is often promoted as a low-carbon alternative that can help people move away from using private cars and taxis since it can improve connectivity of existing public transport networks. However, there has been little research to date on micromobility as a travel choice in the first mile (also known as access trip) and last mile (egress trip) of a commute.

The study authors, through an online survey with 450 responses, investigated how commuters in County Dublin prefer to travel in the first- and last-mile of public transport trips. They also examined the influence of characteristics such as gender and age on people’s choice of micromobility, including shared bicycles and e-scooters, compared to walking. 

In the survey, residents of County Dublin were asked about the mode of transport they would choose in hypothetical commute scenarios, including in the first mile of a commute with private bicycles and e-scooters, and in the last mile with shared bicycles and e-scooters. 

Using statistical models to analyse the responses, the researchers found that walking was the preferred option for commuting for most respondents, even when other options were available and provided significant reductions in travel time.

“This was one of the more surprising outcomes of the survey,” said lead author Giulia Oeschger, PhD candidate at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering. “I was expecting a lot of people to be more concerned with travel time, since cycling and e-scooter-use drastically reduced travel time in the experiment, but despite this a lot of people still deliberately chose the walking option which is always the longest. The population of Dublin seems to really love walking and our survey shows they do it for enjoyment or for exercise. This seems to be a characteristic of the city of Dublin,” she said. However, how the available infrastructure and the perceived safety of cycling and e-scooter use on the streets of Dublin influence the results has not been looked at in this particular study, and is something that the authors feel should be investigated further.

Giulia Oeschger headshot Paraic Carroll 

Left: Lead author Giulia Oeschger; Right: Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and lead of the transport strand at NexSys at UCD

The authors also found important differences in transport preference in relation to gender and age. Young (less than 35 years old) and male respondents are significantly more likely to choose e-scooters and bicycles, while older and female respondents are significantly more likely to choose walking, even if other options were significantly faster. This is consistent with previous studies which also found that e-scooter users are predominantly young and male, the authors note in the paper. 

Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in Transport Engineering at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and one of the authors of the study, states that “while the results of this study highlight that walking was the preferred choice for first and last mile segments of a journey, it also accounts for the existing limited ability to combine active modes or micromobility trips with public transport in Dublin and across the country due to, in some cases, modes not being well integrated with one another and the limitations in bringing private bikes or scooters onto public transport vehicles. However, the walkability of our access trips to and from public transport stops/stations is a key component influencing the attractiveness of public transport services.” 

Availability of secure parking was an important consideration when it comes to choosing transport modes, the authors found. 

The researchers argue that these results confirm that younger generations have a growing interest in micromobility, but regulations and adequate infrastructure are needed to promote equitable access to these modes of transport, with a particular focus on attracting users away from more carbon-intensive transport such as private cars and ride-hailing trips.

The paper co-authors are:

– Giulia Oeschger, PhD candidate at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering;

– Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and lead of the transport strand at NexSys at UCD;

– Professor Brian Caulfield, Professor in Transportation in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and funded investigator with NexSys. Giulia Oeschger and Dr Páraic Carroll are also part of the UCD Transport Research Hub (TREAH), which Dr Carroll leads. 

 

This research is funded by University College Dublin, School of Civil Engineering, under the MicroActive Dublin research project. 

 

About NexSys and its transport strand

Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) is an all-island, multidisciplinary energy research programme. NexSys is hosted by the UCD Energy Institute in partnership with eight other leading research institutions. 46 leading academics work in partnership with industry to tackle the challenges of energy decarbonisation, developing evidence-based pathways for a net zero energy system. 

The NexSys transport research strand is investigating the critical infrastructure, behavioural and policy challenges of transitioning to decarbonised multi-modal transport and renewable energy use in a fair way, and identifying tangible evidence-based solutions via engagement and collaboration of key stakeholders tasked with implementing them.

News coverage:

The Independent: Walking wins out over scooters and bikes for ‘last mile’ of city commutes

UCD News: Public transport commuters prefer pounding the pavement over bicycles and e-scooters – University College Dublin (ucd.ie)

 

NexSys Director profiled in Silicon Republic series on research leaders

In the latest installment of Silicon Republic’s series on Ireland’s research leaders, Creating the Future, NexSys Director Prof Andrew Keane is interviewed by CEO and co-founder of Silicon Republic Ann O’Dea about his research career as well as NexSys’ work and mission.

In a wide ranging conversation, they discuss decarbonisation of the electricity system, the need for multidisciplinary research in the context of the energy transition, advice for researchers interested in getting involved in the net-zero effort, and Keane’s background and career path, with time spent in industry and academia, as well as his passion for coffee!

Watch the full interview below:

The full article can be read here: Creating the Future: Prof Andrew Keane on pathways to net zero (siliconrepublic.com)

Blog post: A week at the EURO PhD Summer School

By Clíodhna Ní Shé

Clíodhna Ní Shé is a PhD student in the Transport strand of NexSys, based in the School of Business at University College Dublin. Clíodhna’s research focuses on optimisation algorithms, with a focus on electric vehicle routing problems and last mile logistics. A vehicle routing problem is a combinatorial optimisation problem which aims to find the optimal set of routes for a fleet of vehicles to traverse in order to deliver to a given set of customers. Last mile logistics concerns the last stretch of the supply chain, from the last distribution centre to the recipient’s preferred destination point.

In her spare time Clíodhna plays Gaelic Football for Carlow. From 25 to 29 June, she attended the EURO PhD summer school on sustainable supply chains in Hagen, Germany, and writes about her experience below.

Clíodhna Ní Shé

Sunday

I set out from Dublin to Dusseldorf airport, where I would have to navigate two connecting trains and a bus to get me to my accommodation in Hagen, a city in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. I was due to arrive at my accommodation around 12 noon, but due to numerous delays and miscommunications in Deutsche Bahn, I only checked in at 5 o’clock.  Hungry from the arduous trip, I was overjoyed to be greeted by a generous buffet of Lebanese food as I entered the Sunday evening get together. Following mildly awkward introductions, we enjoyed the delicious food in the heat, along with bottles of beer, cola and ‘radler’, a traditional German drink.

Monday

Bright and early in the morning, summer school delegates walked from the accommodation to the FernUniversitat, Germany’s only state distance learning university. With over 73,500 students, it is also the largest university in Germany. Throughout the busy week we were treated to lectures and tutorials on designing sustainable supply chains, benchmarking supply chains, and the circular economy. Monday’s lecture and tutorial concentrated on assessing sustainability in supply chains. First, I learned about the relevance and challenges of life cycle sustainability assessments. Following this, I learned about the steps of a life cycle assessment (LCA) and how to interpret the results. I was then introduced to social LCA and how to assess the environmental and social impacts, an interesting aspect of LCA that I hadn’t encountered before. In the afternoons, we were split into groups to work on various case studies. The case studies were introduced to us by representatives from industry partners Volkswagen and Holocene.

Tuesday-Wednesday

As the week went on, lecture focused on the planning of sustainable supply chains and the problems that arise when doing this planning. As part of learning about benchmarking sustainable supply chains, we were also introduced to data envelopment analysis.

A highlight of the trip was the field trip on Tuesday evening that we took to the Koepchenwerk pumped storage power plant, which has been shut down since 1994. We were treated to a very informative tour of the scenic plant. We then walked to an Italian restaurant where we had a lovely meal together.

Thursday

Thursday’s lecture on the circular economy was particularly interesting as we discussed many possible circular supply chains and the possible advantages and disadvantages of them, as well as their realistic viability.

On this final day of the summer school, we presented our case study presentations to our peers and to the relevant stakeholders.

Returning home

There is no doubt that throughout the week we gained valuable knowledge from experts that guided us through cutting edge quantitative research in this vital field. However, the most valuable information was gained from my peers with whom I collaborated and had the opportunity to share stories and connect with.

Summer School Participants
Summer School Participants

Pictured above: Summer school participants