Shadow play: Impact of natural light on design

Consider the impact of natural light on your design.

Hotel developers do not want to enter their first summer season and realize the hotel pool sits in the shadows 90 percent of the day. Architectural shadow studies early in the design process will help you avoid this, as well as other costly design mistakes.

  • Shadow studies, also called solar studies, help visualize the impact of natural light and shadows on a new project.
  • Architects use 3D technology to model a new project virtually in a real environment. They then virtually model the effects of the sun at different times through the day and different dates throughout the year.
  • Trees, surrounding structures, and topographic landscapes can all be included in the model to accurately envision the natural light impact of a new building on the surrounding landscape.
  • Maximize sun exposure Shadow studies help designers determine the best positioning of a building on a site so that areas such as pools and patios receive maximum sun exposure.
  • Visualize shadowing impact In more urban locations, new buildings will often create shadows on surrounding buildings and green spaces. These impacts can be of major concern for both residents and city officials. Shadow studies help demonstrate that the location and height of a proposed building will not cause undue shade on surrounding area. This allows designers to make adjustments to limit negative impacts from shadowing.
  • Increase energy efficiency Designers can use solar studies to increase a project’s energy efficiency by adjusting the building orientation, window placement, and amount of daylight exposure.


For over a decade, Base4 Founding Partner Blair Hildahl has translated his extensive experience in hotel design/construction into regular articles and publications that serve to educate developers, builders, and entrepreneurs on the nuances of A/E design efficiency and excellence. As a regular attendee of all the major hotel development and finance conferences, he is also a speaker and contributor at many of these events. Reach him at

Blair Hildahl


Base4 is a non-traditional A/E firm holding to the best practices of the technology industry. Base4 provides all architectural and engineering services in-house with a business model that attracts the majority of its clients from the hospitality industry. While able to produce A/E design for all types of products, hospitality leaders, such as Hilton and Marriott, have made the company the preferred vendor for hotel design. As a result, Base4 has produced hundreds of hotel designs and was a 2016 and 2017 Inc 5000 honoree recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. For more information, visit