T.E.S.L.A. Vision Scoping Week 2

A.    Revised proposal topic and description

We will focus our project on the electricity use in Los Angeles, opting to forego the previously proposed co-integration of water use. This decision was motivated by the limited amount of time we have in the quarter, the limited (but growing) technical abilities of our coding team, and the desire to create an excellent and clear output for one issue rather than a mediocre and confusing output for multiple issues.

Since the concept, interface, and reception of the NYC energy map was so great, we will continue to use that project as a prototype for our own. Realistically, it would be an incredible feat if a group of people just a few weeks removed from their first “Hello, World [of web GIS]” could create an output which matched the beauty and information contained in the NYC map. So while we will temper our expectations accordingly, we still hope to craft a map which can be easily used by Angelenos to learn more about their energy use.  And, if all goes according to plan, we even hope to add information, features, and interactivity which exceed what can be found in the obviously brilliant NYC map.

B.     List of functionalities the site will provide

The bread and butter functionality of the site will be very similar to that of the NYC map. Spatial interactivity at different scales (neighborhood, zip+4, or even address) will allow users to explore, zoom, mouseover, and click a region of interest to learn about the annual electricity use there.

If time, data, and technical ability permit, we will implement our ideas on additional functionalities which could complement the primary electricity interactivity described above. These include:

  • Location-based searching:                   Like in Google Maps, this functionality would allow users to find points of interest by typing addresses or other identifiers into a search box instead of forcing them to drag and zoom the map around manually.
  • Type of electricity consumer:          While the NYC map integrates building types (e.g. residential, business, etc) into its linear modeling, it keeps that data hidden from the end-user. Since this inhibits comparison between two sites and obfuscates the justification for the end-use breakdowns, we would like to integrate the building types into the interface itself. The method for doing so is not yet determined, but ideas have been proposed to show the building type upon clicking, or highlight all buildings of a certain type when selected, or perhaps displaying the type and size of buildings on the map via graduated symbols (with a show/hide toggle, of course).
  • Temporal mapping:                  Depending on the temporal range and resolution of the data we use, it may be possible to integrate a type of timeline or dropdown box to allow a user to select a certain time frame over which to display the electricity usage data. Alternatively, an option to display the recent growth or decrease in energy use could be provided to show users the direction in which LA’s electricity future is headed.
  •  Cost/Impact/Etc Conversions:         While many people truly care how many kilowatts are being used at a certain location, there are countless others who may not know or care what a kilowatt even is. For those users, conversions could be used to translate the data into something more up their alley. For example, if reliable pricing data is obtained for the electricity being used in the city, we may be able to display electricity use in terms of dollars and cents for those of us who are counting pennies every day. For the eco-warriors, an accurate conversion factor could possibly be derived from a weighted average of LA’s energy sources to translate energy use into the impact of each parcel or zip on the environment as a whole. “Fun” conversions could also be used to make the map entertaining to kids – for example, clicking a parcel could show how many lightbulbs/Xboxes could be run for the amount of energy used, or bought for the amount of money spent at that location.
  • Marker overlays:                  Data sets could be toggled on or off to show interesting marker overlays. For example, locations of LEED buildings could be mapped by Gold/Silver/Bronze markers so that users could see how they relate to overall energy use (if our address-level linear model is robust enough to factor in those types of buildings.) On the other side of the spectrum, the heaviest electricity use areas could be shown so that people could become aware of the biggest drivers of electricity usage and cost in this region.

C.    Sketches or diagrams that “storyboard” the prototype’s usage

D.   A list of all datasets that the project will use

  • Yearly electricity data at the zip+4 scale to be provided by the Earth Institute, via the resourceful Jacki Murdock
  • Building type and floor area provided by county assessor, to be used in modeling


 E.     Milestones

  • BY WEEK 6:
  • Data collection
  • Data organization/calculations
  • Modeling to get address level estimates of usage
  • Map framework of Los Angeles at various scales (address, zip+4, neighborhood)
  • Alpha-testing of web interface features


  • Fully operational map interface
  • Documentation of models used
  • Bugproofing and user optimization


  • Data: will it be sufficiently informative and adequately error-checked
  • Modeling: will we be able to accurately model address level usage using zip+4 data; will we have time to optimize the model for Los Angeles
  • Interface cohesion: will all of the “complementary” ideas for additional functionality be a) feasible, b) useful, and c) intuitive.
  • Coding: will we know enough, soon enough, to code the data into an interactive map interface?




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