Skip to content

Announcing Heliotrope; Solar Calculations for Grasshopper

October 9, 2011

Did I mention that I obsess about where the sun is?

So much so, that I developed a tool for use in my own modeling which I am now happy to release for general use. Heliotrope is a solar calculator for creating solar-aware design and geometry in Rhino and Grasshopper.

Typical modeling tools provide the sun’s position only for rendering–set your day, time and location and see the shadows that result. Heliotrope allows designers to use the sun’s location parametrically when creating geometry by calculating solar elevation and azimuth at one or many dates and times.  In addition, the precise time and position of sunrise, sunset and solar noon are available on a given date.

Rhino and Grasshopper provide an accessible and powerful modeling environment in which to use Heliotrope to generate paths along solar arcs; align objects to sunrise, solar noon, and sunset;  or analyze what objects obscure the sun at given times.  For example, the image below shows the sun’s path and position at 10:06am here in Portland, Oregon on this year’s summer solstice, fall equinox, and winter solstice.  A designer can adjust the time of day to view precisely where the sun will be located or use the calculations directly to drive parametric geometry.

Please feel free to try out Heliotrope and send me your thoughts and comments. The Version 0.1 plugin and User Guide are available for download from Food4Rhino. This free evaluation copy will expire on 12/21/2011 to make way for a number of additional analysis features now in development.

All in all, I expect to continue obsessing about where the sun is throughout our grey Portland winter!

– Brian –

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Cheryl permalink
    January 5, 2014 6:47 am

    Hi Brian, thank you for creating heliotrope tool. I am triying to use the solar day event tool as an attractor to manipulate my model. The model will change in shape according to sun rise, noon and set in accordance to specific julian dates. Does it work this way? Your reply is much appreciated. Thank you.

    • January 5, 2014 10:18 am

      Hi Cheryl-

      Yes that would work perfectly. The solar event component produces three Julian Day values at sunrise, noon and sunset on the day selected. Use the Heliotrope calculator component to convert those into vectors from your desired center point and create an attractor at the desired distance from it. Once you have your three attractors you should be up and running.

      Good luck! Send images when you’ve got it and I’ll post them here.

      – B –


  1. A Year End Review of Gnarly Architecture in 2012 « Gnarly Architecture

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: