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Energy Transitions – Understanding the Challenge

What will it really take to make a transition to a sustainable energy society? Visions of a clean, affordable, reliable, and durable energy future are something that most everyone can support in general. But how we get there, andwhen, are different matters altogether. What fundamental issues do we need to understand, and what forces will drive or hinder that transition?

In a finite world, sustainability is ultimately not a choice but a mandate. The question is: how fast or slow, smooth or turbulent, the transition will be. Some say we need to move as quickly as possible—whether for environmental, economic, or national security reasons, or all the above—implying that all we lack is the political will. Others downplay the urgency and focus on the monumental difficulties of making a transition. The truth, it seems, lies somewhere in between.

To move forward, we need to resolve, or at least manage, the tension between these opposing views. On today’s show, we’ll explore that tension and take a “big-picture” look at the risks, challenges, and opportunities that humanity faces in making an energy transition.

Guests:

RELATED COS, NYU WILL STUDY ‘FIREHOSE OF DATA’ FROM NYC’S FIRST QUANTIFIED COMMUNITY

With the gargantuan 28-acre Hudson Yards project just two short years away from completion, the impact and importance of its “smart city” initiatives is beginning to come into focus.

At the project’s outset, developers Related Cos and Oxford Properties took the opportunity they gave themselves—basically creating an entire neighborhood from scratch—to bake in several high-tech features that will put the finished project in a league of its own.

These include a CoGen plant in one of the development’s six buildings that will be able to provide roughly 70% or more of the project’s energy needs, depending on the time of year, as well as elaborate sustainability measures like a composting program and rainwater recycling.

Michael Samuelian, a VP at Related (snapped above, left, with Empire State Realty Trust’s Tom Durels and H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture’s Hugh Hardy), says those programs will significantly cut down on the development’s carbon footprint when everything is said and done.

They’ll also make it more resilient—in the event of another Sandy-type storm, Hudson Yards won’t be dependent on ConEd’s aging grid for power.

Urban Informatics: Putting Big Data to Work in Our Cities

For the first time in history, more than half of the people in the world live in urban areas. Now more than ever, cities are supporting rapidly increasing populations while struggling to maintain services, operations, and quality of life for their inhabitants.

As cities grow, the task of understanding how they work is becoming a pressing global issue. Currently, about 80 percent of the U.S. and about 50 percent of the world’s population resides in urban areas, growing at over 1 million people per week. In the face of unprecedented growth, cities are faced with a unique challenge: refurbishing and maintaining existing infrastructures to support their current inhabitants while also planning sufficiently to accommodate future populations. If growth patterns continue at this speed, by 2050, 64 percent of people in the developing world, and 85 percent of people in the developed world, will call an urban area their home.

But while global urbanization seemingly presents myriad challenges, it also offers a potential solution – in the form of data. Thanks to the digital revolution, we now have more information at our disposal than ever before, and the amount of data that urban areas are generating is truly staggering. In New York City alone, the local government creates a terabyte of raw data every day, with information on everything from parking tickets to electricity.

 

NYU CENTER FOR URBAN SCIENCE & PROGRESS RESEARCHER AMONG 21ST CENTURY SCIENCE INITIATIVE AWARD WINNERS

 

New York, NY – New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress (CUSP) researcher Gregory Dobler is one of the recipients of the 21st Century Science Initiative Awards. Funded by the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the award will provide funding for Dobler’s project, entitled ‘Understanding the Complex Urban System through Remote Imaging’.

The James S. McDonnell Foundation recently announced more than $14 million in grants for the 21st Century Science Initiative Awards, funding research in three program areas: Understanding Human Cognition, Mathematical & Complex Systems Approaches to Brain Cancer, and Studying Complex Systems. Dobler’s study, which was the recipient of a Scholar Award for the Study of Complex Systems, will receive $450,000 over the course of three years.

“My background in astrophysics led me to ponder whether the same techniques from fields like Astronomy and Computer Vision could be used to study the city as a complex system,” said Dobler. “Much like astrophysicists try to understand the Universe by taking pictures of it from a distance, the idea of understanding the urban environment by taking pictures of it from a distance has opened up a host of possibilities for the science of cities: from unique air quality monitoring to the quantification of energy efficiency to the interaction of people with the technology used in the built infrastructure.”

“My background in astrophysics led me to ponder whether the same techniques from fields like Astronomy and Computer Vision could be used to study the city as a complex system,” said Dobler. “Much like astrophysicists try to understand the Universe by taking pictures of it from a distance, the idea of understanding the urban environment by taking pictures of it from a distance has opened up a host of possibilities for the science of cities: from unique air quality monitoring to the quantification of energy efficiency to the interaction of people with the technology used in the built infrastructure.”

Dobler is an Associate Director for Physical Sciences at CUSP and a Research Assistant Professor of Physics at NYU. He specializes in image analysis, computer vision, time series, statistical analysis, and mathematical modeling of large data sets. Prior to joining CUSP, Greg was an astrophysicist specializing in multi-wavelength, full sky data sets from radio to gamma-ray energies, and led the discovery of one of the largest structures in the Milky Way.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award from the James S. McDonnell Foundation and excited about the avenues of research that it makes possible. With this award, we will be able to acquire state-of-the-art instrumentation for imaging New York from a distance and use the resultant data sets to generate unprecedented views of the city skyline. This data will be crucial to studying the interactions between the human, built, and natural environments of the city, resulting in a unique approach to the study of the city as a complex system,” said Dobler.

Founded in 1950 by the late aerospace pioneer and founder of what would become the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, James S. McDonnell believed that science and technology gives mankind the power to shape knowledge for the future while improving our lives. “Mr. Mac’s” vision continues to be realized through the research these grants are supporting. Since the inception of the program in 2000, more than $264 million in funding has been awarded.

About New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress
CUSP is an applied science research institute created by New York University with a consortium of world-class universities and the foremost international technology companies to address the needs of cities. At the heart of its academic program, CUSP will investigate and develop solutions to the challenges that face cities around the world. This research will make CUSP the world’s leading authority in the emerging field of “urban informatics”. For more news and information on CUSP, please visit http://cusp.nyu.edu/.

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Contact:

Kim Alfred, CUSP

917.392.0859

kim.alfred@nyu.edu

 

Elizabeth Latino, The Marino Organization

212.402.3488

elizabeth@themarino.org

NYU CENTER FOR URBAN SCIENCE & PROGRESS RESEARCHER AMONG KNIGHT NEWS CHALLENGE WINNERS

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 27, 2016

New York, NY – New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress (CUSP) research scientist Ravi Shroff is a member of one of the winning projects of the prestigious John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight News Challenge. The proposal is one of 17 winning projects of the Knight News Challenge on Data announced yesterday at an event at Civic Hall in New York.

The Knight News Challenge on Data funds breakthrough ideas that make data work for individuals and communities. This year’s challenge called upon entrants to answer the following question: “How might we make data work for individuals and communities?” Led by Sharad Goel, Shroff and his colleagues submitted a proposal called “Law, Order & Algorithms: Making Sense of 100 Million Highway Patrol Stops,” aiming to bring greater transparency, accountability and equity to police interactions with the public during highway stops.

“Traffic stops represent one of the most common ways citizens interact with law enforcement. Accordingly, our intent in compiling, cleaning, analyzing, and releasing this large, geographically comprehensive dataset of police stops is to enable policymakers, law enforcement officials, and the public to work together to improve our criminal justice system in a rigorous, evidence-based manner,” said Shroff.

The project team put together a plan to collect, clean, release, and analyze more than 100 million highway patrol stops throughout the U.S. spanning the last several years, ultimately creating one of the most comprehensive national datasets of police interactions with the public. By creating and releasing such a comprehensive study, a vast collection of empirical data on police behavior would be available for local law enforcement agencies, researchers, public officials, journalists and community advocacy groups to use.

“The project reveals the power of data to unlock useful information and increase people’s understanding of everyday issues that affect their lives,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation.

The project lead is Sharad Goel, an assistant professor at Stanford in the Department of Management Science & Engineering. Team members included Ravi Shroff, a research scientist at NYU CUSP, Vignesh Ramachandran of Stanford Computational Journalism Lab, and Camelia Simoiu and Sam Corbett-Davies of Stanford’s School of Engineering.

Knight Foundation is the leading funder of journalism and media innovation in the nation, seeking the next generation of innovations that will inform and engage communities. Knight’s mission is to promote informed and engaged communities. The foundation does that by investing in innovations in media and journalism, community engagement and the arts.

To learn more about the Knight News Challenge, visit www.newschallenge.org.

 

About New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress
CUSP is an applied science research institute created by New York University with a consortium of world-class universities and the foremost international technology companies to address the needs of cities. At the heart of its academic program, CUSP will investigate and develop solutions to the challenges that face cities around the world. This research will make CUSP the world’s leading authority in the emerging field of “urban informatics”. For more news and information on CUSP, please visit http://cusp.nyu.edu.

 

About Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

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CONTACT:

Kim Alfred, CUSP

917.392.0859

kim.alfred@nyu.edu

Elizabeth Latino, The Marino Organization

212.889.0808

elizabeth@themarino.org

80/50 Vision: The Mayor’s Bold Greenhouse Plan

Related Companies’ hot water heaters have been built too big for a long time.

No one really knows (or knew until recently) how big hot water heaters should be. “There has been a dearth in general of real data,” Charlotte Matthews, Related’s vice president for sustainability, explained to Commercial Observer. The real estate giant had been building its hot water heaters based on rules of thumb long used by engineers. But the company recently got motivated to get sizing to an exact science to optimize its cogeneration facilities for Hudson Yards, where waste heat from other systems will contribute to keeping water hot.

“So we measured hot water consumption in our buildings and found that our systems were between two and eight times oversized,” she said.

That means that a lot more water was kept hot than the buildings would use. That’s a lot of wasted energy.

But measurement and verification can show what’s working and what’s wasteful for big buildings and they are driven in part by policy and a consensus that has formed in the real estate industry. The administration of MayorBill de Blasio has set a goal he calls 80 x 50, to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The Real Estate Board of New York has gotten behind it, advocating for smart energy policy and joining the mayor’s Green Building Technical Working Group (and co-chairing two of its subcommittees).

Can Big Data and Sensors Make Cities Smarter and Safer?

“Smart Cities” are designed to scale up “The Internet of Things” to better manage local transportation, energy, healthcare, water delivery and waste disposal. Can Big Data really improve the quality of life for residents and their neighbors?

Keeping Up: When Technological Change Begets More, Faster Change

If you want an early glimpse of how the future may look, one place to get it is the Tower at PNC Plaza. Pittsburgh’s newest skyscraper, which has a gleaming curvilinear top that looms 33 stories over downtown, is a $400 million effort to create the world’s greenest office building.

Gensler, which designed the building, has equipped it with an array of state-of-the-art gadgetry to reduce energy consumption. A solar chimney, consisting of two vertical shafts at the building’s core, allows air to rise and exit through the roof. There also is a double-skin facade, in which twin panes of glass are separated by an air cavity that provides insulation, and a system of automated blinds between the glass panes that is controlled by sensors regulating the amount of sunlight entering the building.

The result: a building that is expected to consume 50 percent less energy than past generations of office towers.

Many of the Tower at PNC Plaza’s technologies are not new, as Douglas C. Gensler, one of the architecture firm’s principals, explains. “The advance really was thinking of how you combine all these things,” he says. Up to this point, “they tended to be either stand-alone ideas or they were not wrapped into the architecture of the building.”

Mayor de Blasio Announces Major Progress in Greening City Buildings

City leading by example, retrofitting all public buildings by 2025; projects already in place or underway at buildings representing half of all City government building emissions

Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and NYU launch tool to track energy and water use at large buildings – key resource as NYC reduces all emissions 80 percent by 2050

 

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that the City has made significant progress in greening its own building stock as it works to retrofit all public buildings by 2025 and move toward an 80 percent reduction in all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – a key OneNYC target. As the City leads by example in retrofitting its own buildings, it also continues to make it easier for private building owners to do the same, launching a new tool today to track energy and water usage at large buildings.

Of the nearly 3,000 public buildings with any significant energy use, almost one-third already have retrofits in place or underway. Those buildings represent 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from City buildings.

“This weekend, world leaders took a historic step in the fight against climate change. New York City has long set the pace when it comes to innovative climate action – and we’ll continue to lead the way,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We’re greening every public building, with retrofits now in buildings representing half of all public building emissions. Our progress is clear, but we won’t stop leading by example – and providing the tools for the private sector to do the same – because our very future is at stake.”

From Data to Design: The Science of Cities

New York City amasses data on habits, health and security of its citizens to cope with spiraling growth

 

New York – Gregory Dobler is an astrophysicist who honed his craft by recording spectral images of quasars and black holes. Now, from a high-rise rooftop in Brooklyn, he is training his lens on the expanding universe of New York City.

Every 10 seconds for two years, Dr. Dobler and his colleagues at New York University’s urban observatory have taken a panorama of Manhattan. Across hundreds of wavelengths of light, they are recording the rhythmic pulse of a living city, just as astronomers capture the activity of a variable star.

“Instead of taking pictures of the sky to see what is going on in the heavens, we are taking pictures of the city from a distance to see if we can figure out how the city is functioning,” says Dr. Dobler, a scientist at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress.