Accelerating Coupled HVAC/Building Simulation with a Neural Component Architecture

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Newton, Massachusetts
Project Term:
05/12/2020 - 07/31/2022

Critical Need:

The DIFFERENTIATE program seeks to leverage the emerging artificial intelligence (AI) revolution to help resolve the energy and environmental challenges of our time. The program aims to speed energy innovation by incorporating machine learning (ML) into the energy technology development process. A core part of AI, ML is the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience. This approach is expected to facilitate a rapid transition to lower-carbon-footprint energy sources and systems. To organize the proposed efforts, the program uses a simplified engineering design process framework to conceptualize several ML tools that could help engineers execute and solve these problems in a manner that dramatically accelerates the pace of energy innovation.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Julia Computing, Inc. will develop a neural component machine learning tool to reduce the total energy consumption of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in buildings. As of 2012, buildings consume 40 percent of the nation’s primary energy, with HVAC systems comprising a significant portion of this consumption. It has been demonstrated that the use of modeling and simulation tools in the design of a building can yield significant energy savings—up to 27 percent of total energy consumption. However, these simulation tools are still too slow to be practically useful. Julia Computing seeks to improve upon these tools using the latest computing and mathematical technologies in differentiable programming and composable software to enhance the ability of engineers to design more energy efficient buildings.

Potential Impact:

DIFFERENTIATE aims to enhance the productivity of energy engineers in helping them to develop next-generation energy technologies. If successful, DIFFERENTIATE will yield the following benefits in ARPA-E mission areas:


Seek U.S. technological competitive advantage by leading the development of machine-learning enhanced engineering design tools.


Use these tools to solve our most challenging energy and environmental problems by facilitating an economically-attractive transition to lower carbon-footprint energy sources and systems.


Reap the economic productivity benefits associated with the commercial adoption of the resulting higher-value energy technologies and associated products.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Rakesh Radhakrishnan
Project Contact:
Dr. Viral Shah
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