How to Pick Your Building Placement in the Southern Mojave Desert

Posted on — By John Gassaway

Architectural designers must first investigate the building site to accommodate optimal orientation. The relationship the site has with compass coordinates is paramount. Architects should determine the climate and environmental conditions as well.  Proper knowledge of the site location climate can allow the building design to respond passively to the sun. Louis Kahn put it best:

“The sun never knew how great it was until it hit the side of a building.”

Also, the shape of the site, the building area and the allowable height of the building will determine the impact on adjacent sites. Other orientation considerations should include ecological, social, and economic communities. These considerations should be addressed through building orientation that connects social spaces on site to impact adjacency foot and vehicular traffic.



The Southern Mojave

Building placement and orientation for sites in Las Vegas should have a longitudinal east west axis. This orientation is determined by the latitude of the site and how the sun will track across the sky at any given time during the year. Having the long side of a rectilinear building exposed to the sun for most of any given day, gives the best opportunity to take advantage of the sun.

This approach limits the amount of solar exposure time on the east and west facades of the building to the morning and evening hours.  These hours of sun exposure, or lack thereof, are the most difficult times to control energy loads. Massing studies done for Team Las Vegas conclude a simple rectangle will give the most energy efficient condition.  Software analysis considered square footage, site location requirements and building envelope assemblies.

In the next article we will start to describe how windows and shading elements can have impacts on energy efficiency and thermal comfort. Failure to consider the fundamentals of building orientation and massing can have negative impacts on the occupants and the surrounding environment. The relationship between orientation and massing of is the first step in design that can create and lead to a healthy, happy and efficient space.