Ch 3b : Rural Housing Book : Sun & Wind & Plate spinning…

So where do we start when first designing in relation to the sun? Well as architects you are effectively the spinning plate man at the circus; you know the one that spins a plate on top of a bendy pole, and then attempts to keep a dozen or so spinning plates in motion at the same time. Instead of plates however you are juggling the plan, section, scale, proportion, the sun and wind to name just a few. So, the architects role is to spin all these ‘plates’ to achieve a well considered design that works on all fronts; forget any of them and a plate will drop and the design will suffer in that area.

Therefore, in order to consider the sun in your designs you need to understand it’s azimuth and path on every day throughout the seasons; it’s too simplistic to just say that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; where the sun rises and how high it reaches in the sky are completely different from summer to winter.

I’ve mentioned the tools that are at hand in a previous chapter that can help with understanding the sun’s path for your particular location( Previous section on sun ) As discussed, I love using the SunSeeker App that produces an augmented reality 3D view of the suns path superimposed over a real-time photo using the iphones camera.

If you prefer a more traditional approach you can (I hear) purchase a custom made perspex sun path model that can be held up to the sky that shows the path of the sun in the sky. Alternatively you can still use the traditional sun path diagrams (shown below) for your location. You can get computer software that will calculate your specific diagram at any chosen location.

As discussed earlier, you also need to appreciate and understand the direction and strength of the wind at your site. You can obtain this information as a ‘wind rose’ from weather web sites. As you can see from the wind rose below, the majority of the wind ( this was for a location in Dublin) is spread from south east to south west; different locations will obviously produce completely different results and your design needs to take account of these site specific variations.

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