2019 November 5 Passive House Institute: districtPH – Assessing Energy-Saving Potentials at the District Level!

5 November 2019 by Jason Quinn

Sustainable Engineering just purchased the first license for new modelling software, districtPH. This was developed in Germany by Passive House International with funding from the EU. Think of it as PHPP for neighbourhoods. It enables simulations of energy use and interactions across a district or even an entire region, modelling not just the energy use of buildings, but any infrastructure or equipment that uses/stores/produces energy: from streetlights to electric vehicles to household consumption.

When I was in China for the IPHC last month, I was among a small, international group of consultants who took the first workshop on districtPH. I signed up immediately. This powerful tool can produce hard data to illustrate the consequences of different building code changes or retrofit strategies on energy consumption.

It will show policymakers the negative implications of making only small, incremental changes; and the huge gains in energy efficiency and carbon emissions that can be created by a city or region-wide changes. It can model retrofitting existing buildings as well as higher standards for new buildings. Its data will address questions about appropriate means of generating energy and the return on retrofit subsidies, such as are being offered in cities with credible zero-energy targets, like Vancouver and New York.

The analysis takes into account grids for electricity and heat, renewable energies, electric vehicles and public consumers. It will provide advice on how to become a zero-energy district (through distributed or centralised renewable energy generation) and how much energy could be exported in different situations.

Momentum is building for changes to our inadequate Building Code and I’m more optimistic than ever that we’re going to see improvements. The type of modelling I can now do with districtPH will provide solid data to help governments, government agencies and other organisations focused on carbon emission reductions, public health and energy efficiency.

As I’ve commented before, the German engineers are brilliant at the technical stuff but not at marketing. districtPH is another so-so brand name—but at least it’s short. And, it’s what’s under the hood that matters. This is a tool for geeks who love Excel after all.

From the districtPH website:

“districtPH calculates the buildings’ energy balances by the user estimating the number and fraction of different building typologies, based on the building type and age and then calculating an estimate of the heating demand of the various buildings based on TFA and topology information entered. Then you can use districtPH to define retrofitting scenarios by having a fraction of the buildings or components of buildings replaced each year in proportion to the retrofit strategy or code change under consideration. districtPH can perform detailed hourly analysis and/or quick calculation by means of typical winter and summer weeks and can represent the upgrades statistically (normal curves) or by fractions.

districtPH can consider other energy flows, for example:

  • PV-systems
  • solar thermal energy
  • wind turbines
  • electrical and thermal storage
  • street lighting
  • electromobility”


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