Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities, a figure that will continue to rise even as energy prices elevate and pressures on energy supplies grow. With a mix of real-life case studies and laboratory modelling, the European Union (EU)-supported research project, CityNet, worked to make cities in the future as energy efficient as possible with the help of young researchers like Dilay Kesten.
© Fotolia, 2012
Originally from Turkey, Kesten earned bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture but she had long been interested in energy and building technology. While earning her master's at the University of Applied Sciences in Stuttgart, Germany, she studied under Professor Ursula Eicker, an expert in a multidisciplinary field known as building physics. "That was so interesting for me much more scientific than architecture," Kesten said. "Professor Eicker and I had a good synergy."
After returning to Turkey, and during the first year of her PhD programme in Istanbul, Kesten began to look for more possibilities in Europe. Following Eicker's advice, she applied for a Marie Curie Actions (MCAs) scholarship, an EU programme supporting the mobility of researchers, which she received for the period 2007-2010 to continue her studies in Stuttgart.
For Kesten and her academic career, the Marie Curie scholarship was a game-changer. "If I stayed in Turkey, I would have had to support my studying by working at night and on the weekends. Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to spend all of my time in Stuttgart doing research. This was really a great opportunity."
Once back in Stuttgart, Kesten joined CityNet's team of PhD students working to develop a sophisticated energy management tool for urban areas. Unlike other energy management projects that assess individual buildings or complexes, the CityNet project analysed the energy performance of entire city neighbourhoods. Additionally, CityNet looked at both demand-side issues, namely energy efficiency measures, and supply-side issues, such as the use of renewable forms of energy.
Importantly, CityNet has developed an online monitoring, simulation and visualisation platform to assist other researchers in their own energy management work. The platform provides live energy demand and supply data, and simulation tools for generating custom energy management scenarios.
Kesten was joined by other architects as well as building physicists, and mechanical and electrical engineers. "It was truly interdisciplinary," Kesten said. "Our main challenge was to study energy consumption at the city scale and look at how we can minimise energy use. Importantly, we looked at both the supply and demand sides."
For her part, Kesten's task focused on maximising the use of daylight in order to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption for lighting and cooling, particularly in glazed office buildings. She worked on a case study of an urban neighbourhood with several office and commercial buildings of varying heights and densities.
Kesten said one of the strengths of CityNet was the professional and geographic diversity. "We got to know people from many different disciplines, universities and cultures. And every four months we attended a meeting at a different partner university. We made so many new contacts."
In Kesten's case, the Marie Curie scholarship fulfilled its promise ideally. "Because of the programme, I now have 18 conference papers and four journal articles," she said. "Five years ago, if someone would have asked me whether I had the chance to live and work in Europe, I would have said it was pretty small. Now, I'm here."
Kesten has continued her research in the field of energy efficiency. She went on to study heating, cooling and electricity use in residential areas in Ludwigsburg, a medium-sized baroque city near Stuttgart. "Most likely I will stay in this field," she said, "and also maybe do some teaching."
Eicker, who coordinated the project in Stuttgart where an artificial sun was built to study passive heating techniques said CityNet was not only revolutionary in how it examined energy management on a larger scale, but also for how it trained PhD students to be more independent.