Chapter 7a~Rural Housing Book – Putting it all together – Solar paths & shadow studies

Using the site:

So, we’ve thought about the principle massing of the building; we now need to consider how the site integrates with the massing. An analogy I often like to give is of the architect as plate spinner; remember the guy at the circus who would spin a plate on top of a bendy pole, then add another until eventually there are dozens of plates all spinning at the same time with the guy rushing around keeping each plate spinning in turn and preventing any falling to the floor. Well, it is the architect who is trained to keep these different ‘architectural’ plates spinning in the air; the first plate in the previous post was ‘The massing’ and in this post it’s the ‘site’. Each ‘plate’ is of equal importance and both need to be kept in the air at the same time. As you can see, as we continue this theory, the architect needs to have an understanding of how each plate is spinning as the project progresses; imagine now each of the plates with a different name printed on the surface:

* Massing
* Site
* Sun
* Wind
* Topography
* Brief
* Cost
* Structure
* Planning
* Electrics
* Mechanical
* Landscape
* Contractor

That’s a lot of stuff to keep going in the air and although the architect may not be a specialist in each of these areas; it is the architect who needs to keep the whole show on the road from the initial inception through to completion.

Well, back to our case-study house; the ‘site’ plate now needs to be kept spinning at the same time as the ‘massing’ plate and part of the understanding of the site is how the sun travels across the land. And to understand this the architect needs to have a good understanding of the suns path at different times of the year. I’ve mentioned in an earlier post the Sunseeker App which shows in an augmented reality view the path of the sun at the current day and the two solstices. The app is brilliant at showing potential objects that cast shadows onto your site and building. This post shows how I use my 3D modelling software (see previous post on BIM) to create a shadow analysis study as part of the design process and analysis.

The solar analysis works at the same time as the design and will give quantitive results on how the building should be orientated, where glazing should be placed, depth of brise-soleils etc…

In this example, the site is pretty flat and open with no major shadowing objects; so the main masses are orientated so that the bedroom ‘wing’ receives the sun from the east in the morning and as the sun travels across the site, each of the main living areas receives the sun throughout the day with the ‘evening’ spaces placed in the west to receive the setting sun. All of the ‘less important’ spaces that require less sunlight such as the utility room etc… are placed on the north of the buildings.

The movie below shows the building (this is one of the early design models), positioned and orientated correctly as per the actual site and graphically shows the south receiving full sunlight with the shadows cast behind the building as required. The design concept of orientating each mass towards it’s appropriate section of the sun’s path is demonstrably shown to work.

Next post on materials…

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