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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Sefaira’s Direct Sunlight Analysis Complements Existing Daylighting Analysis

October 8th, 2015 by Susan Smith

In an interview with Carl Sterner, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, Director of Product Marketing at Sefaira, he discussed Sefaira’s Direct Sunlight Analysis launched in September.

Sefaira sunlight heating and cooling

Sefaira sunlight heating and cooling

Sefaira expanded its best-in-class daylighting analysis to include Direct Sunlight Analysis, including a 1-click solution for SEPP 65 direct sunlight requirements. This analysis is available to Sefaira customers complements Sefaira’s existing daylighting and real-time energy analysis capabilities and is available immediately

According to company materials, direct sunlight analysis allows building designers to understand where and for how many hours a space receives direct sunlight. This analysis is required for code compliance in different parts of the world, including Australia’s SEPP 65 requirement, the UK’s BRE Site Layout Planning for Daylight and Sunlight, and the B3 code in Minnesota in the US. Apart from code compliance, direct sunlight analysis is used by many building designers for passive solar and shading device design.


Sefaira Direct Sunlight Analysis

AECCafe Voice: At what stage in the design process is direct sunlight analysis most impactful?

CS: In the early stages of design (conceptual and schematic), architects make many decisions that significantly impact the amount of direct sunlight that spaces receive — decisions such as the amount, shape, and location of glazing, floorplate shape and floor-to-floor heights, and shading strategies. This is when Direct Sunlight analysis is often most powerful, because it can be used to inform these basic design moves.

Sefaira sunlight heating and cooling

Sefaira sunlight heating and cooling

However, depending on the objective of the analysis, it can be useful throughout the design process. For example, an architect could use the analysis to refine the design of shading elements.

AECCafe Voice:  Is Direct Sunlight Analysis mainly performed by architects or can others involved in the building design process also run it?

CS: Direct Sunlight analysis is particularly useful for architects because they are making most of the decisions that have a big influence on direct sunlight exposure. This analysis can be used to inform good passive solar design — which means keeping sun out in the cooling season and letting it in during the heating season –; to fine-tune the design of shading devices; to investigate solar access in exterior spaces like courtyards; or to keep sunlight out of light-sensitive spaces like gymnasiums, galleries, and even offices.

AECCafe Voice: What type of data is fed into Direct Sunlight Analysis and how is it computed?

CS: Direct Sunlight Analysis measures the hours of direct sunlight that an interior surface receives over a given time period. Sefaira’s Direct Sunlight Analysis specifically requires building geometry (in the form of a SketchUp or Revit model) and a location for the building. The user can select the time period used for analysis — for example, looking at the direct sunlight over the entire heating season, or just for a specific day. The results are available for entire floorplates or individual rooms.

AECCafe Voice:  How many code compliance structures are using Direct Sunlight Analysis and do you expect that number to grow?

CS: There are a number of standards we know of that include some kind of Direct Sunlight Analysis requirements. The best example is SEPP 65 in Australia, a standard that applies to new multifamily residential buildings. SEPP 65 requires a minimum number of hours of direct sunlight in living areas during the winter — the intent being to encourage good passive solar design. On the other end of the spectrum, Minnesota’s B3 Guidelines, which apply to buildings that receive public funding, encourage plentiful indirect daylighting while specifically restricting direct sunlight — since direct sunlight can cause both thermal and visual discomfort in offices. Similarly, the Daylighting credits in the newest version of LEED include an upper limit for Annual Sunlight Exposure (ASE). And the UK’s BRE has guidelines that address site layout for daylight and sunlight.

While the number of standards that include direct sunlight requirements is likely to grow, I think that the real driver for this analysis will be designers who just want to design better buildings — and who know that understanding and controlling sunlight is fundamental to good buildings.

AECCafe Voice:  Do you have examples of how a building has been structured differently to accommodate better sunlight availability according to what is needed?

CS: Sefaira’s Direct Sunlight Analysis was just launched — so we don’t yet have any examples of buildings that have used our software specifically. (However, we have clients who are already using this feature, so we expect to have some case studies soon!)

Sunlight has been a key generative feature in architecture for centuries, if not millennia. Name almost any great architect and their work is at least responsive to, if not shaped by, sunlight. For most architects, sunlight has both a poetic and utilitarian aspect: it enlivens the space, but it also provides passive gains and free heat. What Sefaira’s analysis adds to the architect’s traditional practice is the ability to better interrogate and quantify that utilitarian aspect of sunlight, giving architects a better understanding and better control. It will be exciting to see how this capability impacts design.

AECCafe Voice: What is the cost of Direct Sunlight Analysis? Is it a free upgrade or generally included with Sefaira’s suite of tools?

CS: Direct Sunlight Analysis is included as part of every Sefaira Architecture subscription, and has already been rolled out to Sefaira users worldwide. It is simply the latest addition to our suite of Daylight Analysis tools, which also includes our innovative “Overlit and Underlit” analysis (aligned with LEED v4 metrics), “Annual” (Daylight Autonomy) analysis, which aggregates daylight over an entire year, as well as the more traditional “Time of Day” and “Daylight Factor” analyses. Together, these metrics allow architects to consider daylight and sunlight like never before, and to design with the sun in mind from the earliest days of a project.

Carl S. Sterner, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, is Director of Product Marketing at Sefaira, where he works to create game-changing performance-based design software. Prior to joining Sefaira, he worked for a number of architecture firms across the U.S., including the internationally-recognized William McDonough + Partners, and has contributed to multiple LEED Platinum and Net Zero Energy projects.


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Categories: 2D, 3D, AEC, AECCafe, apps, architecture, BIM, building information modeling, engineering, point clouds, rendering, Sefaira, virtual reality, visualization

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