Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco offers building designers access to its heliodon. A machine that imitates the rotation and orbit of the Earth, a heliodon helps architects wanting to analyze passive solar heating options, site solar panels, or control solar heat gain. Sun machines are likely to always have a part in architecture. As instrumentation improves, sky simulators will see their roles increasingly directed toward comparative analyses. A silvered mesh, for example, while difficult to describe optically, could be tested easily in a sky simulator. Then, designers could feed the material’s optical characteristics into a program like Radiance, and proceed to simulate its effect on a room’s light. The heliodon provides an almost intuitive method of studying the sun as it makes its way across the seasonal skies. Into the sun machine are built the mathematics of solar position and seasonal variation, of night and day.

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