Visualizing Harvard’s Energy and Emissions Data

In 2008, Harvard established an aggressive goal to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2016, from a 2006 baseline. In anticipation of the goal’s conclusion this year, students from the CS171 class at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences chose to visualize Harvard’s energy and emissions data for their final project.

Harvard Office For Sustainability




IMAGE: Harvard metaLAB

EXPLORE THE PERFORMANCE OF EACH BUILDING

Use the map to select a building and explore the greenhouse gas emissions and energy use over time. The type and the age of a building are two of many factors that affect building performance. 98% of Harvard’s scope 1 and 2 emissions are associated with heating and electricity use in over 600 buildings across our multiple campuses.

The information displayed here is based on Harvard’s official energy and emissions data, but these visualizations have not been QA/QCed by Harvard.


Building name

Type:
School (Level 2):
GSF (in sqft):
Floors:
Constructed Year:






Athletic Labs Office Residiential Assembly Library Classroom Other

COMPARE AND MAKE OBSERVATIONS

Although each building is a particular case and many factors influence the energy use and the GHG emissions, trends can be identified. Residential spaces account for nearly 33% of campus square footage and 23% of total energy use, while labs account for 20% of square footage but consume nearly 45% of energy use.

The information displayed here is based on Harvard’s official energy and emissions data, but these visualizations have not been QA/QCed by Harvard.



Athletic Labs Office Residiential Assembly Library Classroom Other

FOOTPRINT BY BUILDING TYPE

Explore the cumulative energy and emissions footprint of each building type. More than 1,600 energy efficiency measures have been implemented across campus. As a result, University-wide energy consumption has dropped by 10%, even after accounting for 12% growth in square footage and energy-intensive space. Excluding growth, energy use has been reduced by 23%.

The information displayed here is based on Harvard’s official energy and emissions data, but these visualizations have not been QA/QCed by Harvard.




The average Massachusetts home creates 2.7 tons of CO2 emissions and uses 109 million Btu of energy per year.
The pictograms for each chart represent the number of homes that would produce an equivalent total emissions or energy footprint.









UNDERSTAND THE ENERGY SYSTEM

Ninety-seven percent of the University’s emissions are from building electricity use, heating, and cooling. Of that, 36% is purchased electricity from the grid. On-site steam, chilled water, and electricity production also occur.

The information displayed here is based on Harvard’s official energy and emissions data, but these visualizations have not been QA/QCed by Harvard.

Energy Use

The University committed to adopting a long-term strategy to reduce Harvard’s greenhouse gas emissions by the maximum practicable rate. In 2016, the University will develop new greenhouse gas emissions and energy reduction goals based on the recommendations of a planned Task Force composed of students, faculty, and staff.

IMAGE: HARVARD OFFICE FOR SUSTAINABILITY




ABOUT


Team:
Thomas Esch and Yannis Orfanos, students at the CS171 class at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


Credits:
We would like to thank the Harvard Office for Sustainability for their collaboration and generous assistance during the preparation of the project, especially Colin Durrant, Caroleen Verly, and Kate Hammer. The shapefiles for the map are kindly given by the Harvard Planning and Project Management. Furthermore, thanks to the teaching staff Mirhee Kim, Lezhi Li, and Johanna Beyer.


Takeaway:
Visualization provides a powerful means of making sense of data. Working with the University’s energy and emissions data was an exciting opportunity to collaborate with the Harvard Office for Sustainability and create a project with real-world application.

Our visualizations aim to enable an exploratory experience than to focus on one narrative. We wanted the users to selectively visualize the data, filter relevant items, and discover patterns. The exploration of the interactive map, the charts, and the system diagram reveals that the building type is as a key factor in tackling emissions and energy performance. Understanding the size of the campus and the associated energy system is also critical.

We hope that Harvard students build upon our work and it becomes the start of a series of data visualization projects on campus sustainability. We recommend the next projects to augment the exploratory dimension by developing cumulative insights to facilitate data-driven decision making.

The Harvard Office for Sustainability leads the effort to create a sustainable and resilient community, while Harvard is using its campus as a living laboratory for piloting and implementing sustainable solutions. You can find more about the initiatives in the Sustainability Report.