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Modeling Natural Light
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The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.
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Modeling Natural Light

Members of Rensselaer’s Department of Computer Science are working on modeling and simulation tools that will allow architects, lighting researchers, and designers to more efficiently take advantage of window placement, different building materials, and natural lighting to create greener homes and offices.

The combination of the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) offers both the massively parallel processing power and the immersive visualization and auralization capabilities required to build such a tool. The project, led by Assistant Professor Barbara Cutler, has received seed funding from IBM.

The goal is to create a full-scale architectural design environment where researchers can simulate and evaluate in real time the illumination, acoustics, and functionality of an architect’s or designer’s work-in-progress. Due to the complexity of the task, current lighting simulations often require hours to produce one rendering. As a result, daylight simulation software is rarely employed in academic or professional practice. “This is unfortunate,” Cutler said, “because designing with daylight in mind can make a significant impact on a building’s sustainability and energy efficiency.”

The visualized design environment being created by Rensselaer Architecture faculty members Anna Dyson and Jonas Braasch would be projected on movable partition video screens—acting as four walls surrounding the architect—and the makeshift “room” would be furnished. Ambient noise would be projected through hidden speakers, giving the architect the luxury of being fully immersed in the room he or she is designing. The architect could then interactively make design adjustments in real time. The ability to accurately simulate sunlight at different times of day, and in different months throughout the year, will allow the architect to optimize the amount of natural light that enters the room.

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