Improving the sustainability of cities is crucial for meeting climate goals in the next several decades. One way this is being tackled is through innovation in district energy systems, which can take advantage of local resources and economies of scale to improve the performance of whole neighborhoods in ways infeasible for individual buildings. These systems vary in physical size, end use services, primary energy resources, and sophistication of control. They also vary enormously in their choice of optimization metrics while all under the umbrella-goal of improved sustainability.
This paper explores the implications of choice of metric on district energy systems using three case studies: Stanford University, the University of California at Merced, and the Richmond Bay campus of the University of California at Berkeley. They each have a centralized authority to implement large-scale projects quickly, while maintaining data records, which makes them relatively effective at achieving their respective goals. Comparing the systems using several common energy metrics reveals significant differences in relative system merit. Additionally, a novel bidirectional heating and cooling system is presented. This system is highly energy-efficient, and while more analysis is required, may be the basis of the next generation of district energy systems.