In a nod to the value of car manufacturers' mile-per-gallon ratings, researchers at Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science published a study that led to a color-coded map of the five boroughs of New York City that displays energy cost and consumption data.

Like a temperature map or Doppler radar, the New York Energy Mapping Project uses a range of colors, from dark red to forest green, to indicate energy consumed per square meter of each tax lot, both in terms of heat and electricity.

“This map will enable New York City building owners to see whether their own building consumes more or less than what an average building with similar function and size would,” said Vijay Modi, a Columbia University professor of mechanical engineering, reported the New York Times. Midtown Manhattan has more energy use than the whole country of Kenya, Modi said.

The interactive map can be used to show where energy is being used, but still does not provide building-specific information. As government data becomes more accessible, as in New York, maps like this one should become more informative. Starting in 2011, private buildings larger than 50,000 square feet were required to file energy consumption data (and sometimes water usage) with New York City, where it will be accessible though a public database.

To learn more about the New York Energy Mapping Project, visit IBM's Building a Smarter Planet website.