img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2939831959404383&ev=PageView&noscript=1")

Artificial sky sheds true light on design models

Words:
Stephen Cousins

Geodesic dome shows Bartlett students their models in different daylight conditions

A super-realistic artificial sky is being used by architecture students at The Bartlett to simulate the effects of various daylight conditions on concept models.

The 5.2m diameter geodesic hemispherical dome was custom developed by Peter Raynham of University College London (UCL) in collaboration with a research assistant. It is installed at the university’s state-of-the art new facility at Here East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The curved interior features 810 individually-controllable LED modules and an 850mm-wide parabolic reflector that’s able to traverse the dome on a track to mimic the sun’s trajectory.

This combination enables the diffuse (sky) and direct (sun) components of the lit environment to be modelled with high accuracy and simultaneously in any geographical location, at any time of the day or year.

Raynham, who is professor of the lit environment at UCL Bartlett, told RIBAJ: ‘It is about as accurate as you can in get terms of the amount of light falling onto a given surface of a concept model, and a good approximation of actual daylight. The only drawback is that light is more patchy than genuine daylight.’

The dome is an upgrade of an original structure designed and built by Raynham around 20 years ago when he was a researcher at UCL. ‘I was given the equivalent of a sketch on the back of a beer mat and a budget and told to get on with it,’ he jokes. It roughly trebles the number of light sources compared to the original, which featured 270 compact fluorescent luminaires, and quadruples the amount of available light.

Sophisticated software can map and predict the intensity of the sky being simulated and uses a wireless bluetooth connection to instruct each LED what level of light to emit. The dome can be programmed to simulate light at different times of day, or reproduce the cycle for an entire day over one hour, or in incremental 30 minute stages.

The system is being used mostly by lighting and architecture students to quickly test the impact of daylight on conceptual design models.

‘It provides much more hands-on interaction than a 3D model in CAD. For example, placing a hand over a window you immediately see the impact on the interiors and can modify the design in response,’ Raynham concludes.

Latest

There’s an element of controversy in this round of planning approvals, with a waste incinerator decision defying environmentalists, questions of funding priorities and consents requiring several reworkings, but sustainability lies at the heart of most of the players’ viewpoints

For or against, all sides draw sustainability to their cause

Rory Chisholm’s fascination with courtyards – like ‘a simple clearing in the woods’ – produced the pencil and ink drawing of Manchester that netted him 1st winner, practitioner

Practitioner, 1st winner: Rory Chisholm

Eye Line entrants bared heart and soul with impassioned, thoughtful images

Eye Line entrants bared heart and soul with impassioned, thoughtful images

Annabelle Tan is Eye Line's stand-out 1st winner, student, for her exquisite drawings, depth and rigour, and ‘clear sense of spatial narrative’ laying traditional forms of Asian representation on the Romantic English landscape

Student, 1st winner: Annabelle Tan

Greenest ever Olympics claim is just greenwash say critics. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s loss of world heritage status sounds alarm bells for other UK sites, and architects remain unmoved by Jenrick’s unexpected praise

Critics reject Japan's sustainability claim and Unesco's heritage axe threatens more UK sites