New Maps Show Carbon Footprints for Buildings and Streets
A new computer program makes detailed 3D maps showing the carbon emissions coming from buildings, streets and neighborhoods.
CREDIT: Bedrich Benes and Michel Abdul-Massih
Many people have tried calculating their carbon footprints at a website or museum display. Now, a new computer program aims to do the same, but for entire cities. The program, named Hestia, is able to pinpoint emissions numbers for individual neighborhoods — or individual streets and buildings, if the buildings are large enough. Hestia's creators hope their super-precise mapping will help city planners decide how to reduce their citywide footprint.
"With Hestia, we can provide cities with a complete, three-dimensional picture of where, when and how carbon dioxide emissions are occurring," Kevin Gurney, an environmental scientist at Arizona State University who directed the Hestia project, said in a statement. "Hestia offers practical information we can use to identify the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and track progress over time."
Policymakers in Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Phoenix are already looking at Hestia data, T. J. Blasing, an environmental scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, told the New Scientist. Those are the three cities for which ASU scientists have made Hestia maps.
The Hestia model uses publicly available data, such as property assessments and air pollution measurements, to make its estimates, the New Scientist reported. To calculate numbers for individual buildings, it makes estimates based on the building's size, age and power source. To check the emissions from particular roads, Hestia taps traffic and car make and model data gleaned from vehicle registration records.
To check their estimates, Gurney and his team compared Hestia's natural gas numbers for Indianapolis with actual numbers they got from the gas company. The numbers were very close, they reported in a paper they published today (Oct. 9) in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The Hestia team is now building a website that will allow Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Phoenix residents to help with the mapping by submitting utility bills that show a building's exact energy usage. The scientists also hope to map all major U.S. cities eventually, thus accounting for a quarter for the world's total carbon dioxide emissions.