Cover Image

An innovative app for a parametric, holistic and multidisciplinary approach to early design stages

Mattia Donato, Giovanni Zemella, Gianluca Rapone, Jak Hussain, Conor Black


During early project stages, design teams need to explore a wide range of possible envelope configurations in order to identify those that best address the project constraints and objectives. 

Crucial aspects such as control of solar gains, use of blinds and renewable energy production are typically the subjects of extensive discussions among architects and façade, mechanical, electrical and PH engineers. Traditional methodologies used to inform the design on such matters are neither flexible nor time efficient, failing to meet the expectations of the team. Arup Solar is an innovative APP developed to overcome such inefficiencies and to provide a user-friendly way to aid the discussion between architects and engineers. The validated APP aims to investigate the relationships between envelope features (e.g. window to wall ratio, g values, etc.) and cooling strategies, as well as identify potential opportunities for renewable solar energy production. It allows for the exploration of a large number of design options instantaneously, visualizing results by mapping them on the 3D model of the building. The process of building any instance of the APP includes a first step where the NURBs modeler Rhino/Grasshopper is utilized to run a Radiance & DAYSIM solar analysis on any complex geometry. The resulting data (on each surface mesh) is then exported to the Unity gaming engine, where a set of pre-programmed features is automatically implemented and the graphic interface is created. The outcome is a stand-alone parametric application that can be potentially run on any device.


total architecture, software development, design tool

Full Text:



Arup, O., (1970). The Key Speech. ARUP digital publication. Retrieved from:

Autodesk®, (2010). Autodesk® Ecotect® Manual. Shading Masks. San Rafael (United States).

CIBSE, (2006). Technical Memorandum - TM 37, Design for improved solar shading control. London (United Kingddom). Retrieved from:

DiOrio, N., (2014). Technical Manual for the SAM Solar Water Heating Model. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy). Retrieved from:

Duffie, J.A., Beckman, W.A., (2013). Solar Engineering of Thermal Process. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken (New Jersey). Retrieved from:

European Parliament, (2010) Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2010/31/EU. Official Journal of the European Union. Retrieved from:

Granadeiro V, et all. (2013). Building envelope shape design in early stages of the design process: Integrating architectural design systems and energy simulation. Elsevier, Automation in Construction. Retrieved from

Greenberg, D., et al. (2013). Sustain: An experimental test bed for building energy simulation. Energy and Building. Retrieved from . //

Negendahl K, (2015). Building performance simulation in the early

design stage: An introduction to integrated dynamic models. Automation in Construction. Retrieved from:

O’Hegarty, R., et al. (2016). Review and analysis of solar thermal facade. Elsevier, Solar Energy. Retrieved from:

Quaschning, V., (2016). Understanding Renewable Energy Systems. Routledge, New York (United States).

Skoplaki, E., et al. (2008). Operating Temperature of photovoltaic modules: A survey of pertinent correlations. Elsevier, Renewable Energy. Retrieved from

U.S. Deparment of Energy. (2016). Energy PlusTM version 8.6 Documentation. Engeneering Reference. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (U.S. Department of Energy). Retrieved from:

Waibel, C. et all. (2016). Using Interpolation To Generate Hourly Annual Solar Potential Profiles for Complex Geometries. Proceedings of BSO 2016. Newcastle (United Kingdom). Retrieved from:

Zemella, G., et al. (2014). Evolutionary Optimisation of Façade Design. A New Approach for the Design of Building Envelopes. Springer-Verlag. London (United Kingdom). Retrieved from:


Copyright (c) 2017 Mattia Donato, Giovanni Zemella, Gianluca Rapone, Conor Black, Jak Hussain

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

JFDE . ISSN 2213-3038