daylight dynamics

SMArchS Thesis w/ Marilyne Andersen, Sheila Kennedy & Terry Knight, MIT

Awarded the Top Thesis Prize by MIT faculty in the Department of Architecture.

Natural light is a dynamic and ephemeral tool for expressing the quality of space.  As a compliment to more traditional avenues of lighting research that assess environmental performance in terms of quantitative illuminance goals, my SMArchS thesis aimed at identifying the importance of light variability as a finely tuned architectural effect.  Under the rapidly growing context of energy conscious research, this work attempts to re balance our definition of “performance” to include those perceptual aspects of light that are often disregarded by the world of  simulation.

Through an analysis of contemporary architecture from around the world, a lighting taxonomy was developed to categorize architectural space in terms of contrast and variability.  Traditional lighting simulation tools evaluate light in terms of illuminance across a hypothetical section of space.  Although this information is useful in analyzing whether we achieve task-specific illumination goals, it tells us nothing about the quality of space as a product of light-driven visual effects.  Renderings can provide a single snapshot of time, but what if we want to know how space is affected by changing light levels across the course of the day or year?  What if we want to know how ‘variable’ the contrast of a space is under different sky conditions and what time of day it changes from low to high contrast as a result of geometry and sunlight.  This work uses a simulated set of high dynamic range images under sunny sky conditions across the year to create a holistic analysis of the changing effects of light contrast through a series of architectural spaces.  The production of this thesis used programming logic generated for the Lightsolve project and additional scripting through RADIANCE and MATLAB  to analyze and process the resulting digital images.

A version of this work has been published in the proceedings to SimAUD 2012 , where it was awarded the Best Paper award, and as a full length journal article in Building & Environment.   An edited version of the full thesis was also published as a Springer Brief in Computer Science.

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