Introducing Bianca Howard, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Jul 01 2022

The Department of Mechanical Engineering welcomes Bianca Howard, PhD, who recently joined the Department as an Assistant Professor. Howard joins Columbia from the School of Architecture Building and Civil Engineering at Loughborough University in England, where she was Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Urban Energy Modeling. Howard returns to Columbia after receiving a PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2016, where she collaborated with Professor Vijay Modi on the pivotal New York City Energy Mapping Project.

Merging her dual interests in energy consumption and climate change, Howard’s work involves the creation of novel building energy modeling, control and simulation techniques to enable buildings to be active participants in the transition to a zero-carbon energy future.

“I am developing methods for the accurate estimation of building energy consumption at urban scales and high temporal resolution as well as techniques to deliver the flexible timing of energy consumption in buildings and communities, lines of inquiry that involve unique and highly relevant challenges,” she explains. “Urban building energy modeling aims to provide estimates of building energy demand and consumption for cities and urban areas. These estimates can help inform policy makers and energy suppliers on how the timing of energy demand may change in the future, most often in response to interventions to meet climate change goals.”


“Modeling and control for building energy flexibility aims to determine how building space heating, cooling and distributed energy systems can enable flexibility in the timing of energy demand,” she continues. “This becomes necessary as, to meet climate change goals, space heating in buildings needs to be electrified, creating a burden on the current electricity grid. If we can shift demand to minimize peaks or align better with renewable energy sources, we can reduce the cost of additional infrastructure needed to aid in the transition to a zero-carbon energy system.”


‘At Columbia, I will continue this research to push the boundaries of knowledge in building energy modeling and translate those innovations into real world impact,” she says. “We know that energy consumed by buildings is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The most exciting aspect about this field is its potential to impact climate change.”

This Fall, Howard will be teaching a new course, Building Energy Modeling, which will provide undergraduate and graduate engineering students with the skills to develop accurate building energy models.

“My hope is that my skills and knowledge in this field will lead to the development of tools that will inform policy, technologies to enable our buildings to actively manage energy demand, and ultimately make a zero-carbon energy system a practical and achievable reality.”

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