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Josef Hargrave

Global foresight manager

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DIMMER: district information modelling and management for energy reduction


District information modelling and management for energy reduction

Focus Area

Digital, Energy


BIM, Cities, Digital Environments, Energy, Stakeholder Engagement





Sensors, meters and actuators deployed across a city can facilitate understanding of, and help control, the energy chain including smart thermal energy systems and the electricity grid. Advances in 3D modelling, visualisation and interactive technologies enable user profiling and real-time feedback, which can promote better energy-efficient behaviour.

To unlock the potential of these technologies and opportunities, the DIMMER research project funded under European Union FP7 (Project 609084), of which Arup was a consortium member, focused on the interoperability of district-level energy production, consumption, environmental conditions and user feedback data. It examined how visual and web-based interfaces can be exploited to provide pervasive, real-time feedback about the impact of energy usage behaviours. It explored the integration of building information modelling (BIM) with real-time data and extended them to district level (DIM: district information modelling).  It also examined new business models for energy traders and producers to exploit user energy profiling for the benefit of energy consumers, producers and distributors.

Key Findings

Through this research, we:

  • engaged with city-scale and district-level energy stakeholders
  • established agreements for use of incumbent estate metering and monitoring systems
  • created models of districts for using individual building data and using BIM for simulations and interactive visualisation of energy flows
  • completed validation exercises using case studies in Turin and Manchester
  • correlated building user feedback with opportunities for energy optimisation
  • developed near-real-time data gathering application programming interfaces (API) and analytics for energy performance evaluation
  • integrated the API and analytics with dashboard visualisations drawing on 3D city models and GIS (geographical information systems)
  • produced middleware hosted applications for use by three stakeholder categories: energy suppliers, facility managers, and building users.


The research into the application of district-scale energy modelling is particularly relevant to the developing industry markets of smart cities and smart grids.

The real-time urban virtual energy modelling dashboard is a visualisation tool for smart cities (or smart grids) and an energy-CO2-cost reduction platform, and is of interest to diverse stakeholders across the urban energy sector.

This work leads into potential future research to develop variable and personalised tariffs, utility load balancing and optimisation of maintenance schedules.


Effective use of digital technology is a key factor in optimising energy use and sustainability of cities.

Despite the availability and pervasiveness in buildings and estates of energy-related technologies such as building management systems (BMS) and energy monitoring systems (EMS), these systems are not widely used to minimise energy use.

Middleware technologies applied at the estate, district or city level can interface with BMS and EMS monitoring and can control devices and systems to better effect than purely at the building level.  A well-configured middleware platform can provide a supportive and compelling interface for the user.

Using dashboards as windows into energy production and consumption characteristics, we can simulate improvement opportunities for cities, districts and estates.

A hosted web-service interface can help cities, districts and estates improve sustainability, energy efficiency, load balancing, development planning, utility security and competitiveness in the energy market.