Sun Charts Helps Determine a House’s Orientation
Latvia Is Almost the Land of the Midnight Sun. These sun path diagrams and sun graphs show that.
One of the first things I do when designing a house is a site analysis. This is a study of the local conditions, including the slope of the land, site features, views, the local weather, and most importantly, the solar orientation. What direction a house faces, north south, east, or west, can have a dramatic effect on the energy efficiency of the house and its aesthetic comfort. If you ever wonder why some houses are always dark, look no further than its orientation. Chances are it does not have adequate windows on the sunny side of the house.
For our project in Latvia, we have a significantly different sun situation than here in North Carolina. Because Latvia is so far north, it gets very little sun in wintertime. Today, as I write this on December 23, the sun rose in Latvia at 9:01am and sets at 3:45pm. That’s not much daylight. And when the sun is up in winter, it is at a very low level in the sky.
You can see by these charts that on this date, we have two hours and forty minutes more daylight in North Carolina than in Latvia. But you can also see that the reverse is true in summer. We have long days with about 15 hours of sun while they have about 19 hours of sun. Still, all sun is not equal. Our summer sun is much higher in the sky and theirs only gets as high as our Spring and Fall sun. Notice how the Latvian summer sun nearly wraps all around them, rising way up in the northeast and setting in the northwest.
What does this mean for the design of the house? Fist, we’ll want to do all we can to help the house remain bright in winter. Then, at the same time, we will want to be able to control the low, penetrating summer sun and keep the house from overheating. Houses don’t have air conditioning in Latvia. We will also need to control the light coming into bedrooms in the summer so the occupants can get a normal amount of sleep and not be awakened before 4:00am in the summer.
One thing you can do to make your house design better is to orient it properly on the site. This does not cost any extra to do this right, but it will pay you dividends forever.
Follow the Latvia project:
- Traveling Architecture in Latvia
- Peteris Blums and the Wooden Architecture of Latvia
- Mezaparks in Riga, Latvia
- Modernist Houses in Historic Neighborhoods
- Latvian Symbols in Art and Architecture
- The Memorial for Deported Children in Riga, Latvia
- The Dark Time of Latvian Architecture
- Decorative Wood Trim in Latvian Houses
- The Handcrafted Heritage in Latvia
- Factory Built Housing can be Better than You Think