Carnegie Mellon University
kvarma2_PhD_SOA_2024_R.pdf (21.17 MB)

A 4D Interactive Carbon Emissions Dashboard: A Visualization and Assessment Tool for Urban Building Environmental Impact.

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posted on 2024-07-03, 16:01 authored by Kushagra VarmaKushagra Varma
  1. Lack of User-Friendly Data-Sharing Tools: Most cities and states (fewer than 60%) use a  public dashboard for sharing benchmarking data, indicating a gap in tools that are easy to use  and engage non-energy experts.  
  2. Absence of Emission Forecasts: No cities currently provide emission forecasts, which are  essential for helping stakeholders and policymakers set future emission improvement targets.  This omission neglects the temporal dimension of data sharing.  
  3. Inconsistent Dashboarding Standards: There is no coherent standard for developing  dashboards to share data across communities, leading to difficulties in comparing, aggregating,  and disseminating information across different jurisdictions.  

Buildings continue to maintain their status as one of the largest consumers of energy and water.  As of 2024, approximately 60% of electricity generation in the US derives from fossil fuels and  releases substantial volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This fossil fuel consumption  contributes to global warming and the broader issues of the Anthropocene. Moreover, escalating  water consumption leads to unsustainable consequences, including increased energy,  environmental, and financial burdens. In response, energy and water benchmarking has become a  crucial method for evaluating the performance of existing buildings and setting targets for future  improvements. The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) reports that in the United States, as  of 2023, 44 cities and 8 states have adopted varied energy benchmarking and transparency policies,  with some being voluntary and others mandatory. However, three primary challenges have been  identified in these existing policies:  

To tackle these challenges, this dissertation introduces a framework for developing a "4D  Interactive Carbon Emissions Dashboard: A Visualization and Assessment Tool for Urban  Building Environmental Impact." This dashboard not only visualizes existing benchmarking data  but also integrates future emission predictions, hence the designation "4D."  

This "4D Interactive Carbon Emissions Dashboard'' features a dynamic 3D representation of  buildings alongside data on energy, water, wastewater, municipal solid waste, renewable energy,  and greenhouse gas intensities. As a result of the dissertation, the framework also provides seven  new standalone applications for cleaning and preparing raw data for analysis and dashboarding.  Additionally, to provide emission forecasting, various forecasting methods, such as simple curve  fitting, exponential smoothing, and a forest-based technique, were tested using energy and water  benchmarking data from the cities of Orlando and Pittsburgh. The forest-based method was  determined to be the most suitable based on its Forecast Root Mean Squared Error (FRMSE) and  Validation Root Mean Squared Error (VRMSE) values generated using Space Time Pattern  Mining Tool’s Time Series Forecasting method in ArcGIS Pro. Furthermore, to make it easier for  municipalities throughout the US to share benchmarking data with their constituents, this  dissertation provides a detailed, step-by-step methodology for constructing the dashboard from  scratch, ensuring a robust and standard approach to data visualization and forecasting.  

 In conclusion, this dissertation not only identifies critical gaps in current energy and water  benchmarking efforts but also offers a data sharing solution through the 4D Interactive Carbon  Emissions Dashboard. The tool is designed to enhance the transparency and accessibility of  building performance data, enabling more informed decision-making, and fostering a proactive  approach to energy, water, waste, and wastewater management to reduce emissions. Ultimately,  this research contributes to the ongoing dialogue on urban sustainability and provides actionable  insights that can drive meaningful environmental change in the built environment.  




Degree Type

  • Dissertation


  • Architecture

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Erica Cochran Kristen Kurland Ellyn Lester Vivian Loftness Peter Scupelli

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