Kiel researchers developing unique 3D energy model for the city - to illustrate potential savings

  • CAU researchers are developing a nationally unique energy model for all residential buildings in the City of Kiel using software from the USA

  • In 3D models, they link the material properties of buildings with local weather data in order to represent heating requirements for room heating and hot water

  • A new data set helps with targeted energy distribution, shows the need for renovation and can be transferred to other municipalitie

In light of the current fears of an energy shortage in the heating sector, politics, business and society are intensively discussing the heating energy requirements and potential savings measures for industry, commerce and private households. The basis for this is a reliable database, which is precisely what researchers from Kiel University (CAU) are now working on in cooperation with the global energy company Shell. Their efforts are supported by the Climate Protection Management and the Digitalisation Unit of the City of Kiel. Together, they bring science to municipal energy planning. A new model provides spatial data and scenarios for the heating requirements of an entire city.

The Sustainable Design Lab (SDL) at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston (USA) has developed "Urban Building Energy Modeling" (UBEM) software in cooperation with Shell. The partners have now also made this tool available to Kiel-based researchers at the Competence Centre Geo-Energy (KGE) and the Chair of Landscape Ecology and Geo-Information (LGI). The cooperation and knowledge transfer was initiated by the Wissenschaftszentrum Kiel.

Models show detailed energy scenarios

In order to be able to use the software tool locally, the City of Kiel has provided the researchers with an existing digital 3D model of the city’s buildings. The researchers then linked this spatial data to high-resolution local weather data as well as typical parameters for the thermal material properties of the buildings in Schleswig-Holstein – and in particular those in Kiel – using the UBEM tool. Within six months, initially two "energy districts" were modelled and visualised in Kiel, followed by the entire monthly heating requirements for room heating and hot water of the residential buildings in the City of Kiel, which was completed after approximately one year of cooperation.

"With the software, we can combine data sets and specialist expertise that are already available at various locations in the city administration in novel ways," said Malte Schwanebeck from the KGE at Kiel University. “We thereby create a spatially and temporally very detailed overview of the current heating requirements for the supply of room heating and hot water in the residential buildings of an entire city, which previously did not exist in this form locally," continued the scientist.

Various scenarios can now be simulated

Jens-Peter Koopmann, Climate Protection Coordinator of the City of Kiel, added: “Whilst the energy transition is already making progress in the electricity sector, the heating sector is still lagging behind. This sector accounts for a large proportion of energy consumption, and thus also of CO2 emissions. The City of Kiel is therefore developing district concepts that combine efficient and climate-friendly heating supply with energy-efficient renovation measures. The experience gained from the districts should help to develop a heating plan for the entire city. On the one hand, it illustrates the current and forecast heating requirements and heating supply structures, and on the other hand, it shows additional potential for sustainable heating supply and for renovation measures."

Benjamin Ditel, Data & Tech Enabler of the City of Kiel, emphasised: “Based on a digital twin of a city or a region, we can apply 'what-if' scenarios. This allows us to simulate possible effects by making small adjustments to the parameters. Measures can thus be derived in a more targeted manner."

Scientists see the Kiel model as a flagship project

"The Wissenschaftszentrum stands for innovation, sustainability and networking. I am therefore delighted that we have been able to bring together so many stakeholders in Kiel to utilise the UBEM tool in an exemplary project," said the Scientific Managing Director of the Wissenschaftszentrum, Dr Wiebke Müller-Lupp. “And of course, we also hope that the data collected will enable us to better assess the energy consumption of the City of Kiel in the long term and thus make a contribution to curbing the current energy crisis."

Prof. Andreas Dahmke, head and spokesperson of the KGE, sees the utilisation of the UBEM tool in Kiel as a flagship project: “It would be in our interests that the methodology could also be made available to other large cities, municipalities or small local authorities, because so far they do not have such an indispensable database for an effective heating energy transition. Especially in the context of climate change adaptation, such a database is important for simulating potential alternative weather and/or climatic conditions in order to test ideas for the thermal renovation requirements of a city."

View of the Hörn area of Kiel and the 3D building model of the city
© Kiel University based on the City of Kiel’s database

View of the Hörn area of Kiel and the 3D building model of the city. The areas shown in red have particularly high energy requirements.

View of the Kiel Fjord and the 3D building model of the city
© Kiel University based on the City of Kiel’s database

View of the Kiel Fjord and the 3D building model of the city. The annual heating requirements of the individual residential buildings are shown in colour, based on the model developed using the UBEM software tool.

Scientific contact:

Malte Schwanebeck
Competence Centre Geo-Energy (KGE)
Institute of Geosciences at the CAU
+49(0)431/880 2875


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