Architect, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, Land Use Planner, Environmental Observer

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Here Comes The Sun ...

This is a simple way to start thinking about solar orientation and sun and shade:

1. What hemisphere are you in?

If you are reading this in Australia, the sun at noon will be due North. If you are reading this in the United States, the sun at noon will be due South.

2. What is your latitude?

Check some good maps or an atlas. The USGS maps have longitude (lines from north to south) and latitude ( lines from east to west). Look at how much above or below the Equator you are located. Santa Cruz, California is approximately 37 degrees North latitude.

3. Where is North on your site or building?

This example works best when things are oriented north- south.

You will need to know the approximate tilt of the earth -

23 1/2 degrees!


at Summer Solstice, June 21st at noon, the sun is:

90 - latitude + 23 1/2 (degrees above the horizon)

at Winter Solstice, December 21st at noon, the sun is:

90 - latitude - 23 1/2 (degrees above the horizon)

for the Equinox, March 21 and September 21, at noon)

90 - latitude (degrees above the horizon)


I was recently asked to look at a "building envelope" and the effect it would have on giving the neighboring residence sun in the windows. Here are the two diagrams -

What conclusions would you make from the drawings above?

you could also model this in SketchUp !

. . .

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Recommended Books

  • - Precedents in Architecture
  • - City Comforts
  • - A Pattern Language
  • - The Architecture of Happiness
  • - Architectural Composition
  • - Design Language
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  • - Chambers for a Memory Palace