Communities and Urban Districts

Our communities and urban science research, development, demonstration, and deployment focuses on ensuring communities are sustainable, equitable, affordable, and resilient.

Photo of residential buildings.

Solutions With Impact

Many countries, cities, energy utilities, corporations, and other entities worldwide have aggressive goals to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, and increase renewable energy production. While these commitments are set at high levels and across large physical scales, it is at smaller scales within cities, communities, neighborhoods, urban districts, and campuses where many specific projects and solutions will be implemented to achieve impact.

NREL activities help key decision makers to better understand the  benefits of advanced building energy efficiency and energy flexibility strategies integrated with renewable generation, battery storage, and other community-scale energy systems.

For example, NREL and partners have documented many key strategies, challenges, and best practices in A Guide to Energy Master Planning of High Performance Districts and Communities.

A guide to energy master planning of high-performance districts and communities.

These communities are where we can greatly effect change—finding ways to thoughtfully design our buildings and energy infrastructure, taking a human-centered approach tailored to the specific needs of the people that make each community unique.

Our goal is to design sustainable, equitable, affordable, and resilient communities for all socioeconomic demographics. Our research includes communities in urban, suburban, and rural environments.

Modeling Tools

With the right modeling tools, buildings and entire communities can be designed and upgraded to coordinate their energy demands to be smarter and more efficient, transforming them into efficient, dynamic, and interconnected energy resources and delivering lasting benefits to residents.

URBANopt™ (Urban Renewable Building And Neighborhood optimization) provides the ability to model and understand the district- and neighborhood-level benefits of advanced building energy efficiency and energy flexibility strategies, on-site renewable generation and battery storage, electric vehicles, and district thermal energy systems. URBANopt has proven its impact in helping diverse communities, regardless of size and demographic.

The ResStock™ analysis tool takes a new approach to large-scale residential energy analysis. It helps states, municipalities, utilities, and manufacturers identify which home improvements save the most energy and money.

ComStock™ allows stakeholders to better understand how the commercial building stock uses energy and assess how technologies and demand-side management strategies can improve that energy use pattern in the future.

As a key example, ResStock and ComStock were used with various other NREL modeling tools in the Los Angeles 100% Renewable Energy Study, a first-of-its-kind objective, highly detailed, rigorous, and science-based study to analyze steps the community can take to achieve a 100% clean energy future.

Learn more about NREL’s other building energy modeling and other tools.


Ben Polly

Ben Polly

Senior Research Engineer