Solar Study in Revit – How to Create

When designing a building in Revit, it is important to consider the impact of natural light and shadows on the design’s exterior and interior. Fortunately, it is possible to create a Solar Study in Revit to visualize how the sun and shadow affect the building and surroundings.

The Sun Path feature or Sun Settings in Revit can be used to create a Solar Study. Four types of Solar studies are available to visualize sun and shadow positions at specific times of the day and year. Utilizing this feature can help in more effective design, such as optimal solar panel placement or passive solar heating design.

In this article, I will explain the terminology of the Sun Path, how to create a Solar Study in Revit, and guide you through the export settings.

Solar Study Revit

A Solar Study in Revit allows you to visualize the natural light and shadows on the exterior and interior of a building. When you create a Solar Study you can see how lighting and shadows affect your design at specific times of the day and year. Also, this allows you to see how buildings around the project site affect your project.

Using the Solar Study at an early design stage can help you see the best spots for placing solar panels, or creating a passive solar heating design. You can use the Sun Path and Sun Settings features combined with Shadows for Solar Studies.

The Sun Settings offer many options for enhanced studies. Choose from four types of solar studies and set location, date, and time, or select from preset options. Of course, it is possible to create multiple studies using different settings and place them on a sheet for example.

solar study in revit
Solar Study: Lighting and Shadow effects on exterior and interior

Sun Path Revit

The Sun Path feature in Revit allows you to create a visual representation of the sun’s trajectory across the sky. The best part is that you can add your custom geographical location for a precise study. Enabling the Sun Path makes it possible to place the sun manually at any point along its trajectory between sunrise and sunset.

To help you understand the terminology of the Solar Study in Revit’s Sun Path Feature, I have created a list of relevant terms you may encounter:

sun path revit
Sun Path in Revit
TerminologyDescription
AGround compassThis is a segmented circle placed on the ground plane within your model. This circle shows the orientation relative to True North.
BDate controlThe Date reflected on the ground compass represents the day of the Solar Study. Click on the Date to modify in place without going to the Sun Settings.
C/DTime Sunrise / Time SunsetThis time indicates the exact time the sun rises/sets for the chosen date.
EDaily PathThe daily path is illustrated by an arced line representing the trajectory the sun follows across the sky throughout the day.
F/GStart Time control / End Time ControlTo specify the start and end time for the Solar Study range. Adjustable by clicking on the time.
HActual Sun TimeThis represents the actual time when the sun creates the lighting and shadows in your model.
ISolar Study RangeThe highlighted part of the arc indicates the specified time of the Solar Study Range.
JSun Analemma8-Shaped path that illustrates the sun’s position in the sky at the same time each day throughout the year.
KSun AreaThe region where the sun moves throughout the year at the designated geographical location.
sun path
Sun Path: clicking and holding the sun enables the visibility of the Sun Analemma and Area

Types of Solar Study

Before we start creating a Solar Study, I will explain what types are available for the Solar Study in Revit. Each Solar Study Type has its unique purpose and produces a specific output, such as an image or animation. The list below gives an example of each type of Solar Study:

  1. Still: You can use the Still study to create a view that shows the lighting and shadows at a designated location, date, and time. Use this to create a single image.
  2. Single Day: When you would like to create an animation to show the lighting and shadows at a specified location, date, and time within the designated Start and End Times (Solar Study Range). It is possible to set different time intervals.
  3. Multi-Day: Use the Multi-Day study if you would like to create an animation for a specified date range. For example from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM between May 1st and June 30th.
  4. Lighting: Use the Lighting study feature when you require a single image of the lighting and shadows, regardless of the geographical location of your project. In other words, you can change the sun’s position on the horizontal coordinate system by changing the Azimuth and Altitude values. This type of study is useful for rendering in Revit, for example.
multi-day solar study
Example of a Multi-Day Solar Study: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM between May 1st and June 30th.

Note

The time and date annotation displayed in the Sun Path feature are determined by the regional settings in your windows operating system. When you adjust these settings while Revit is open, be sure to refresh the view to see the changes.

Create Solar Study

Now that we know what types of Solar Studies are available in Revit, let’s create one. Ensure that you have set up the geographical location for your model and decide on the preferred view for your Solar Study. Creating a 3D view is considered the best practice for displaying lighting and shadow effects on a project.

I also use floor plan views for creating Solar Studies, but ensure to set the cut and top plane of the view range above the roof level, so the shadows display properly. In the example below I’m using a 3D view and the Single Day Study Type to explain the steps for creating a Solar Study.

Tip

If you like to learn more about the View Range in Revit, you can check out this article: View Range Revit – Everything you need to know.

Step 1 – Sun Path & Shadows

Let’s start by enabling the Sun Path and Shadows by following the steps outlined below:

  1. Open or create a 3D / Floor Plan view
  2. Go to the View Control Bar in the bottom left corner of the screen > Click Shadows On
  3. Click Sun Path Off > Select Sun Path On
enable sun path

Step 2 – Sun Settings

With the Shadows and Sun Path enabled, we can continue with the Sun Settings.
Follow the steps written below:

  1. Go to the View Control Bar > Click Sun Path On/Off
  2. Click Sun Settings… > Sun Settings dialog opens
  3. In the Sun Settings dialog, choose a Solar Study Type
  4. Change Settings for Date, Time, Time Interval, and Ground Plane (some options depend on Solar Study Type)
  5. Click Apply to see the adjustments in the current view > Click OK when finished
sun settings
Click to enlarge

Optional: It is possible to Save Settings [A] as a Preset to apply the same settings for other views. You can duplicate, edit, or rename presets to your specific requirements within the Preset list.

The option to cast shadows on the ground plane can be selected for any level of your project. Disabling this feature enables shadow casting on the toposurface or toposolid.

Tip

Make your Solar Study scope smaller with a Section Box and avoid unneeded elements that affect shadows.

Step 3 – Preview Solar Study

When the Sun Path, Sun Settings, and shadows are set, we can preview the Solar Study before saving or exporting to an image or animation. To preview the Solar Study and its settings, follow the steps below:

  1. Go to the View Control Bar > Click Sun Path On/Off
  2. Click Solar Study > Solar Study tab opens
  3. In the Solar Study ribbon, you can Preview and Play an animation (for Single and Multi-Day studies).

Optional: You can adjust the Display settings, such as Sunlight and Shadow Intensity, or change between different Solar Study Types.

solar study in revit

Save Solar Study Still Image

If you would like to save a view with specified settings, you can create different views or save an image of the view. To save a view as an image in your project for future reference, make sure you prepare the view how you would like to display it and then follow the steps below:

  1. Open the view from the Project Browser > Right-click the view from the Project Browser
  2. Click Save to Project as Image… > Save to Project as Image dialog opens
  3. In the Save to Project as Image dialog, give a proper name in the Name View
  4. Adjust settings for the Export Range, Image size, Options, and Format to your requirements > Click OK
save to project as image

Once you click OK, the image is created and stored under the Renderings branch within the Project Browser.

solar study raster image
Saved image of a view in Revit: Raster Image

Export Solar Study

To export the Solar Study for presentations or further analysis with project members and clients, we can save it as an image or animation with various extensions. Additionally, you can create a sheet containing multiple views with different Solar Studies and export it as a PDF file.

Image

Before exporting your Solar Study to an image, ensure you prepare your view with the preferred solar settings and then follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Open the view from the Project Browser
  2. Go to the File Tab
  3. Hover over Export
  4. Scroll down inside the right-sided menu > Hover over Images and Animations
  5. Click on Image > Export Image dialog opens
  6. In the Export Image dialog, give the image a Name and location for exporting (click the Change… button)
  7. Adjust the settings to your preferences > Click OK to export
export image revit

Note

You can export images with the following extensions: BMP, JPEG, PNG, TARGA, or TIFF.

Animation

When exporting an Animation of the Solar Study, make sure to adjust the view settings to your preference, just like exporting an image. Proceed with the steps provided below to export the Animation:

  1. Open the view from the Project Browser
  2. Go to the File Tab
  3. Hover over Export
  4. Scroll down inside the right-sided menu > Hover over Images and Animations
  5. Click on Solar Study > Length/Format dialog opens
  6. In the Length/Format dialog, adjust the Output Length and Format (visual style and dimensions)
  7. Optional: Select Include Time and Date Stamp to display in the top left corner of the animation > Click OK > Export Animated Solar Study dialog opens
export solar study revit
  1. In the Export Animated Solar Study dialog, navigate to your preferred folder to Save the file in
  2. Give the file a File Name
  3. In the Files of type, choose an output type (.avi is for standalone video output)
  4. Click Save > Video Compression dialog opens (only when .avi is chosen)
  5. Choose Compressor: Full Frames (Uncompressed) > Click OK
export animated solar study

After clicking OK, your file will export to your chosen location. If you choose any other output format besides .avi, the frames will be exported as separate images. For example, the images can be used in other software to create a .gif.

animated solar study revit
GIF of Solar Study: Time and Date Stamp in the top left corner.

Tips & Tricks for Solar Studies

Lastly, here are some additional tips and tricks to enhance your use of Solar Study in Revit.

  • It is possible to adjust the size of the Sun Path in 2D and 3D views. By default, the size of the Sun Path is determined by a bounding box that surrounds all visible elements within the view. The default scale of the Sun Path is 150%.
    • To adjust the size of the Sun Path: Select the Sun Path > Go to the Properties Browser > Set a new value for the Sun Path size (%), between 100 – 500.
    • To make the Sun Path fit the model’s visible elements: Select the Sun Path > Right-click > Select Fit to Model. Alternative: Turn off and on the Sun Path to make it fit to the visible elements again.
sun path size
Adjust the size of the Sun Path
  • You can add annotations such as text, tags, and dimensions to enhance your views, images, and animations. If you like to add annotations to the 3D view, you can save and lock the orientation. Learn more about locking a 3D view with this article: How to Lock 3D View in Revit.
solar study annotations
Adding annotations to the Solar Study
  • You can use a Sheet to display 2D-floor plan views and 3D views of your Solar Study. Share your analysis by exporting a PDF file from this sheet to show your project members or clients.
sheet with solar study
Sheet containing 2D and 3D view for Solar Study

Wrapping Up

When designing a building in Revit, it is important to consider the influence of natural light and shadows on the interior and exterior of the building. The Solar Study in Revit makes it possible to visualize how the sun and shadow affect your design and surroundings.

You can use the Sun Path and Sun Settings to create one of four available Solar Study Types in Revit. The different types let you visualize the sun and shadow positions at specific times of the day and year. When exporting the Solar Study, use your creativity to present it to project members and clients effectively.

I hope this article helped you learn how to create and export a Solar Study in Revit while familiarizing yourself with the terminology of the Sun Path. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions, tips, or tricks I did not mention.

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