Designing Cities for Comfort

Expertise:Modeling urban energy flows and human-powered mobility; daylighting and energy in building technology applications; the use of unmanned drones for building performance inspections.
Research Problem: Designing cities for pedestrian comfort. Tarek Rakha’s work on sustainable urban mobility looks at how weather conditions and the built environment influence walking and biking in urban communities. “It’s about planning for thermal and visual comfort under predictable conditions, such as cold winters and hot summers,” says Rakha.
Backstory: Rakha’s doctoral dissertation from MIT focused on comfortable and walkable cities. He was also part of a research team that developed a citywide building energy model for Boston, which estimated the gas and electricity demand of every building in Boston.
SyracuseCoE Connection: Rakha was attracted to Syracuse University, in part, because of the resources available through SyracuseCoE. “I was excited about the kind of support I could get here that I couldn’t get anywhere else,” says Rakha. That includes networking, access to industry partners, lab space to develop research activities, and assistance with grant proposals. Prior to the official start of his faculty position, SyracuseCoE helped Rakha submit a proposal in response to a solicitation from NYSERDA. The proposal was funded, supporting a study of sustainable transportation alternatives in Syracuse. Subsequently, SyracuseCoE assisted Rakha develop a proposal to SageGlass for a study of daylighting and energy in buildings; he also is using space in the SyracuseCoE lab wing to test his drone with various sensors.
Lab to Market: Rakha’s NYSERDA-funded study examines the walkability and bikeability of downtown Syracuse, including outdoor thermal comfort, as well as sharing economy technologies in the City of Syracuse (e.g., bike and car sharing), and public transit and regional relationships between Syracuse and Central New York. “SyracuseCoE has relationships with all the relevant stakeholders so whatever outcomes we present from our feasibility study will directly link to each of them,” says Rakha.