Building Site Conditions

The way sunlight moves around a building site influences the way the building is positioned, the size and location of windows and skylights, the amount of day-lighting, and the design of mechanical and natural heating and cooling systems. The distance above or below the equator determines how sunlight moves across the site (Figs. 2-1, 2-2). The amount of sunlight that reaches the site depends on its altitude above sea level, how close it is to bodies of water, and the presence of shading plants and trees.

Fountains, waterfalls, and trees tend to raise the humidity of the site and lower the temperature. Large bodies of water, which are generally cooler than the land during the day and warmer at night, act as heat reservoirs that moderate variations in local temperatures and generate offshore breezes. Large water bodies are usually warmer than the land in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Forests, trees, other buildings, and hills shape local wind patterns. The absorbency of the ground surface determines how much heat will be retained to be released at night, and how much will be reflected onto the building surface. Light-colored surfaces reflect solar radiation, while dark ones absorb and retain radiation. Plowed ground or dark pavement will be warmer than surrounding areas, radiating heat to nearby surfaces and creating small updrafts of air. Grass and other ground covers lower ground temperatures by absorbing solar radiation, and aid cooling by evaporation.

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