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How to develop climatic analysis

There are two main ways to undertake climatic analysis - either by using physical models, or by using computer models.
A physical model over a built area

Working with the local context and climate is a fundamental part of creating successful buildings and places. Traditionally, local knowledge of the climate and landscape was used to decide where best it would be to build streets, public spaces and buildings. In hot countries, much emphasis would be placed on mitigating the effects of hot weather, whilst in cold climates emphasis would be placed on maximising solar access, minimising wind etc.

How to undertake climatic analysis

Today, there are two main ways to undertake climatic analysis. The first is to use physical models, made out of a range of materials including card or timber and ‘physically’ simulating conditions of sun, wind and sun. Here, a real lighting rig can be used to replicate the sun height and angle in relation to the model and the solar access and shading can be seen and documented.

Alternatively, computer models can be used to simulate these environmental conditions. Here, it is important to understand that we draw or model buildings or urban environments in CAD, and then run the analysis of these models in other software packages or plug-ins.

This, in turn, gives a result that we can interpret. This is important because once we have set the model and parameters in the analytical software, the computer ‘runs’ the analysis for us. If we are not happy with the result, we need to alter the model or parameters.

Sun simulation parameters

As we are simulating the sun of a place, the parameters we are usually concerned with:

  • Geographical location.
  • Date in the year and the time.

Equally, as it is unlikely that we would want to simulate the solar access for everyday of the year, we would normally choose key dates such as:

  • The summer and winter solstice (when the sun reaches its maximum or minimum inclination).
  • The twice-yearly equinox (when the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of approximately equal length).
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