Salute the sun, and build
Ask any elderly person from any village – what is among the most important criteria to be followed in locating a building? How would they decide the location of specific rooms? How are the windows positioned? We can ask many more questions, but to get one single answer – respect the directions of the sun.
Commonly termed as orientation, humans learnt the importance of effective orientations towards a good home possibly as the nomadic way of life gave way to settled life! Among the earliest principles of eco-friendly buildings to be discovered, orientation continues to be valid even today, helping those who follow the sun and punishing those who disregard it.
The exact location of the sun varies depending on the place and time of the year. Also, the height to which it rises and the angle it creates in comparison to the position of the earth is a matter of great implication.
All these data have now been precisely documented under solar charts, altitudes, azimuths, shadow angles and such others for each location on earth. We know that the sun not only brings in light, but also heat and glare; as such, solar heat gains, sky glare and other factors affecting their impacts on our buildings have been quantified to precision.
During the last few decades they were available in printed version, but now with the advent of computer applications varied kinds of softwares are available which assist in applying our knowledge of orientation to design better buildings.
From mere data for design incorporation to real time simulation exercises, today a building can be pre-checked for natural air, day light, window protection, shading patterns, sky glare, heat gain and such others.
Such advanced applications would of course demand guidance by experts with high-end equipment, which all of us cannot afford to have. Incidentally, IGBC, TERI, BEE and such institutions with all their knowledge of research and data also suggest orientation as a safe starting point for design.
Keeping such technological skills aside, there are many common sense approaches that could be applied on an everyday basis. Our past generations have been a large repository of time-tested knowledge systems which can take care of a majority of basic design sensibilities.
Stating this is not to negate the relevance or importance of modern research-based data, but only to admit that we can manage basic climate confirming designs just by being sensible to our contexts.