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Urban Patterns like you never seen it before
23 July 2012
MIT Portugal Program
Daniel Wiesmann (MIT Portugal Program PhD Student) and David Quinn (MIT PhD, graduated this summer) have developed an interactive web-map that allows for an integrated understanding of resource use in cities- Urban Energy Patterns. By displaying measures of construction material (kg/person), building and transportation energy use (kWh/person) and population density (people/km2), the researchers hope to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between these measures and urban development patterns. Thanks to a “Google Map” satellite imagery, users can examine specific urban areas, and automatically generate a detailed PDF report of the area which they examined. http://www.urbmet.org/
This work was motivated by a desire to better understand how spatial patterns can be related to material and energy use in cities and therefore the two PhD students have mapped 40 cities across the United States hoping to contribute to the public discussion of urban sustainability. The data shown in the web-map uses a combination of publicly available datasets, survey data, and sophisticated spatial analysis methods at a high-resolution, enabling the prediction of values in cities where some data was not available. Even so the work developed quickly form paper to the screen as Daniel Wiesmann puts it “The idea of developing some kind of interactive web-map was a goal that we had mid-way through our PhD's. It took some time for us to acquire the necessary skills, so we only started working on this in the summer of 2011. Since then, the website has gone through several iterations until it reached the current version in April 2012”.
In just three months almost 5 000 people have used this website and the researchers hope to contribute to a better understand of urban resource consumption. Daniel Wiesmann adds “We hope that people who have used our website learned something about urban resource consumption and had some fun! The level of interest in our work is very motivating for us; we plan to extend the analysis to include more cities from around the world and to make the results of the analysis freely available. In general, there is a massive shortage of information about urban resource consumption”.
Since Daniel Wiesmann and David Quinn are on the last stages of their PhD, both are planning to pursue this project and expanded to other cities such as Lisbon, Portugal “We are in the process of setting up a company that specializes in urban sustainability analysis. We will continue to freely provide the results of our city analysis on urbmet.org, while our commercial work focuses on sustainability analysis, visualization and web-mapping. We plan to extend this analysis to include other cities, including Lisbon”.