A novel mobility-based approach to derive urban-scale building occupant profiles and analyze impacts on building energy consumption

Wenbo Wu, Bing Dong, Qi (Ryan) Wang, Meng Kong, Da Yan, Jingjing An, Yapan Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


In the US, people spend more than 90% of their time in buildings, which contributes to more than 70% of overall electricity usage in the country. Occupant behavior is becoming a leading factor impacting energy consumption in buildings. Existing occupant-behavior studies are often limited to a single building and individual behavior, such as presence or interactions in confined spaces. Moreover, studies modeling occupant behavior at the building or community level are limited. With the development of the Internet of Things, mobile positioning data are available through social media and location-based service applications. The goal of this study is to analyze the impacts of more representative occupancy profiles, derived from high resolution urban scale mobile position data, on building energy consumption. A pilot study was conducted on more than 900 buildings in downtown San Antonio, Texas, with billions of mobile positioning data. We then compared these profiles with the existing Department of Energy prototype models and quantified the differences using a statistical method. On average, the differences in occupancy rates between the ones derived from the empirical profile and the ones from the Department of Energy reference ranged from −30% to 70%. The realistic derived profiles are then simulated in the CityBES. The results show that the predicted cooling energy demand is reduced by up to 40% while the heating energy demand is reduced by up to 60%. This study, therefore, advances knowledge of urban planning as well as urban-scale energy modeling and optimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115656
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - Nov 15 2020


  • Global positioning system
  • Occupancy profile
  • Urban mobility
  • Urban-scale building energy modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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