Sunlight Maps for the City/Icarus

The Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai this week, officially becoming the tallest structure in the world.  At the beginning of the 20th century, New York City adopted zoning ordinances in part to protect citizens from losing access to fresh air and sunlight from the increasingly tall buildings that were being constructed.  Urban farming faces many barriers, but one of the most fundamental is available sunlight.  Rural farms enjoy uninterrupted direct sunlight, but for urban farms and gardens adapting to their taller neighbors requires thought and planning.  The sunlight demands of various crops can be selected by the available light hours of a site.  Rooftop and vertical growing schemes can also provide improved light from ground-level lots.  Urban agriculture is receiving a lot of promising attention as a means to both revitalize and humanize cities.  In a December 27th article from the LA Times, investors in Detroit are considering urban farms as a means to bring the city back.  For these lofty aspirations and even the humble ambitions of new urban residents that want to grow some of their own food, an urban sunlight map could prove invaluable.  The nexus of GIS and sunlight in urban areas has primarily been utilized by engineering and architecture for energy efficiency and daylighting. GIS is poised to be able to provide sunlight maps for use in agriculture, climate change reduction strategies, and even the preservation of historical buildings like churches whose stained glass windows once basked in full sunlight before being cast into shadow by skyscrapers.

Image from World Sunlight Map

For more about practical barriers to growing in the city: The New Wave of Urban Farming

For the connection between urban agriculture and combating climate change: Growing Skyscrapers

Carl Kunda, VERTICES intern

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