Net-Zero Buildings at MIT

MIT Building 76's energy use in 2019.
MIT Building 76's energy use in 2019.

Understanding MIT building energy consumption to inform a technologically feasible recommendation on how to achieve net zero emissions within MIT.


D-Lab: Water, Climate Change, and Health

Community partners

Net Zero Foundation

  • Rick Clemenzi
  • Judy Siglin

Amro Farid

Paul Ricci



Cambridge, Massachusetts

Student team

MIT students unless otherwise noted.

  • Einat Gavish ‘23
  • Kiran Mak ‘25
  • Udita Bajaj ‘22 (Wellesley)

Problem framing

In its Fast Forward Climate Action Plan for the decade, MIT outlines a goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2026. A major contributor to MIT’s emissions are the heating and cooling needs of its buildings, and any attempt to reach net zero emissions requires an improvement to the heating and cooling systems as well. Specifically, we propose that an Advanced Thermal System and storage, which takes a more holistic view to heat systems in order to increase efficiency, would be a more sustainable alternative. This proposed solution first requires an analysis of MIT’s current electricity, chilled water, and steam usage on both a macro system-level scale and a micro building-level scale. Then, this analysis can be used to identify the main issues with MIT’s current system, as well as to create a generalized model of different kinds of buildings on campus, and identify and simulate how heat pump-based solutions can achieve net zero. The ultimate outcome of the project would be convincing the MIT administration of the feasibility and benefits of an Advanced Thermal System.

Work done so far

In the project so far, we have cultivated relationships with relevant MIT facilities employees to access data for buildings, and done a preliminary data-cleaning and analysis. We have looked at data at a monthly resolution from the sustainability data-pool, and used that to make choropleth maps and to do a principal component analysis to cluster like buildings. We have also looked at some hourly data for representative buildings on campus and created plots to help model their energy needs, including a Fourier analysis to look at the cyclicality of the data. All data analysis is available here.

Hand-off to partner, next steps

Next steps in the project could include expanding the data analysis beyond the three representative buildings to other buildings with available data. One could also specifically look at how heat pumps and other components of an Advanced Thermal System could be applied on both a building and system level, utilizing the building clustering already performed.


Susan Murcott, D-Lab: Water, Climate Change, and Health Instructor

Julie Simpson, D-Lab: Water, Climate Change, and Health Instructor

Kiran Mak, '25, Net Zero Buildings for MIT project member