Model for illustrating sustainable architecture, passive solar design, and more

Poster by the author. Model created during Endeavor Fellowship 2012. Illustrating sustainable architecture design, passive solar and harvesting energy from sun, and wind, and harvesting rain water. Credit: Author. 


The use of 3-d computer software, as well as creating physical models and mock-ups are invaluable when teaching sustainable architecture. A model, with actual working features and functions are an excellent way to demonstrate how features like passive solar, passive ventilation, harvesting of sun energy, harvesting of wind energy, and the collection of rainwater works in a sustainable building. The next two section illustrates how the model created by  the author is used to teach these features and functions. An eBook is available at illustrating the model in detail. This book can be used by teachers, designers, architects, and students to provide in-depth knowledge on sustainable architecture, possible ideas on model making, basic and sophisticated concepts, how to include movement/lighting/water/wind in the model. The eBook will provide additional insight into model making, teaching, and learning. For example the teacher provide his first model, and then moves on to the new model where he uses model aircraft  components (receiver, transmitter,and servos) to provide movement to the louvers (illustrating passive heating). Ceramic tiles are used (with a thermometer and probe) which are heated up by the sun or a halogen lamp (if indoors) to illustrate how the sun heats up concrete (heatsink & thermal mass). The eBook includes details about the function, the making, the illustration, as well as the basics and more advanced concepts of Sustainable Architecture. Worth reading! 

When using SketchUp computer software - by selecting the shadows feature - the exact shadows and shading are provided (time, day, season, location). See the video on the basics of turning on shadows in SketchUp - linkbelow (Beginner's level). 

YouTube: Using shadows - SketchUp. Beginners level, 'How to.'

SketchUp model illustrating the shadows function (Armadillo and Onion inspired building): The deciduous trees provide shade during the hot summer months (keeping the building cool). However, during winter the deciduous trees shed its leaves. The sun enters the building through well-planned windows, heating up the concrete walls and floors (Passive Solar Principle). Credit: Author. See the eBook by the author at Five House Publishing using bio-mimetics (ask nature) to inform sustainable practice: 

'Armadillo and Onion inspired sleep-out design brief: Research, climate, weather, ideation and freehand sketching- Sustainable Architecture.'  

3-D building models help bring sustainability into construction (THE GUARDIAN - INTERNATIONAL EDITION)-BY MATTHEW JENKIN APRIL, 2015

For years, construction was an analogue world: bricks and mortar; pen and paper. Buildings were designed and planned using traditional two-dimensional drawings, with errors or miscalculations sometimes only discovered once the structure was already forming on the ground. But thanks to advances in digital technology, the days of poring over crumpled rolls of complex blueprints is over.

Building information modelling (BIM) describes the process of using a collection of building data to digitally create a 3D model of the finished product. It’s a kind of virtual reality which features equivalents of the actual pieces used to construct a building, such as windows and doors, air conditioning systems and specialised equipment.

Whether you’re building a hospital or a skyscraper, a bridge or a road, the beauty of BIM is that it allows the user to run computer simulations which help those involved in the project’s evolution understand how the building behaves long before construction begins. 


Ian Sutton, associate director at CBRE Building Consultancy, says that although BIM is often likened to the move from paper drawings to designing using computers in the 1980s, the cradle to grave benefits of the technology as a construction tool are “nothing short of revolutionary”.

He explains: “In essence, these new technologies are helping us understand how to put a building together better, provide a better grasp of how that building should perform when built, and later, how it might be taken apart. These innovations are also giving us access to automatically calculated design data before a building is physically built, so we can take a more sustainable approach to the construction of buildings, and have a window into how that building will perform when it is occupied.”  

He adds that augmented reality, where computerised information is overlaid onto a virtual or actual view of a site, is now becoming commonplace in construction, streamlining the design process and lowering building costs. And by minimising construction defects, the ongoing operational costs are reduced.

Excerpt taken from: