August 8, 2017
By William J. Martin, R.A., AIA, P.P., LEED AP-H
We are about to experience one of the greatest wonders the natural world has to offer humanity.
In late August, here in the New Jersey area, there will be a solar eclipse. Solar eclipses are not commonplace. They are actually very rare, especially events visible in the area of New Jersey. This time around, the sun and the moon will provide a fairly substantial partial eclipse with about 70% of the sun covered at peak time. This should occur about 2:44pm, local time, on August 21, 2017, and weather permitting, it will be visible throughout New Jersey.
A solar eclipse is a reminder from the universe that we are part of a larger environment. As architects down here on the earth, we strive through design to make the best use of the effects of the natural world. The occurrence of a solar eclipse visible in New Jersey is a great opportunity to discuss how architects use the movement of the sun through the sky to design better buildings.
Climate change, the high cost of energy, and reducing dependence on non-renewable energy sources is an important priority for professional architects. Utilizing design strategies to reduce heat loss and heat gain allow for a reduced environmental footprint and a lower operational cost for the constructed building. This business case for reducing the carbon footprint of buildings is strong. It reduces the economic burden on both the building user, and the environment as a whole.
Our design strategies include proper layout and configuration of the buildings we design. The layout we create responds to the north-south directions through careful building site orientation. Our spaces are arranged within the building to take advantage of natural solar daylighting reducing dependency on artificial light thus reducing energy utilized. We incorporate design features such as roof overhangs, that help to manage and minimize solar heat gain by shielding South facing wall surfaces during the hottest parts of the year. Properly sized overhangs and windows also allow that same solar heat gain to enter the building at the coldest times of the year. Designing to make use of local environmental conditions just makes good design sense.
Roof designs can also be affected. Architects design roof angles and slope direction to provide surfaces for photovoltaic solar panels to be installed. We create building forms and shapes that maximize efficient renewable energy generation.
As architects, we play an important role in helping to reduce the effects of climate change through intelligent building design. Architects understand how buildings can fit into the natural world and we have the skills to design buildings that will reduce, and not contribute to the negative effects of climate change.
This upcoming wondrous celestial event, once again, reminds us that what we do as architects is truly connected to the broader natural world in a most fundamental way.
Architects are skilled professionals who listen to you, interpret your wishes, help realize your building dreams, and add value at every stage of a project.