11/15/10-Light and Trip to Greece Thoughts

During the lectures on lighting design last week, I was reminded of a unique example I had researched for my STS (Science, Technology, and Society) class this past summer.

It may be a bit outdated, since it was featured in Popular Science in 1987, but still, I think it’s pretty cool.

Hoagie House in Washington D.C.: the Roto-Lid is a computer-operated shading skylight that automatically moves with the time of day and seasons to allow the right amount of sunlight in. The invention Jim Adamson can be operated automatically or manually. When running automatically a computer system collects information about temperature and light levels outside the house and then moves the panels inside the house accordingly.

Close up of the rotating panel

Diagram for the winter and summer seasons

More detailed season-related panel rotation angles

Personally, I think this system is a bit too impractical for a house, but for a large building with not too many stories? It could work. The motor to run each of these is a  horsepower motor, so the building wouldn’t be buzzing with huge motors throughout the day, and having a lot of automated skylights wouldn’t drain too much energy from the building’s system.

The Baker and Steemers reading talked about ancient architecture and their use of the sun, not just as a source of light, but as a source of heat. They briefly mention Greece, and the Parthenon, which reminded me of my trip to Santorini, Greece after high school graduation. We stayed in a hotel that was along the side of a mountain. The whole town of Fira was built as caves in the side of the mountains. In the winter, they block cold winds. Yet, in the summer the homes have dynamic features. First of all, being built into the side of the mountains (usually called “cave houses”), the homes stay relatively cool in the summer because they keep an average temperature. Because the side of the mountain is directed southwest, the town of Fira gets a lot of sunlight. They’re known for the gorgeous sunsets, and most buildings have rooftop patios to enjoy that sun. I found it interesting though that a lot of houses, like the hotel we stayed in didn’t have wide openings to let sun into the cave houses. It’s probably because there’s such powerful sunlight already, so a little sunlight can do a lot. However, almost all the buildings get an equal chance of getting sun because the town is built on a slope as opposed to on the flat top. For instance, if you travel east towards the middle of the island, you’re actually also traveling up the mountain and getting the same amount of sunlight in the afternoon. From a tourist perspective, every room in a hotel has ocean/sunset view! Finally, the winds while we were there blew pretty adequately. There was always at least a gentle breeze going, especially if you leaned over the edge of a building and felt the Meltemi wind blow across the mountain. Most buildings did have open areas/arches that let the wind blow through them.

"cave houses" along the side of the mountain

The beautiful sunset shows the southwestern orientation of the town

The door to our hotel room on the left didn't let a lot of light in. It was a place of shading

You can see a lot of rooftop patios for people to enjoy the sunlight

A closer look at some of the town

Leaning over the side, you could feel a heavy breeze across the side of the mountain


About Lauren

Civil Engineering '12
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