Managing Solar Reflections from the Building Envelope

A Meta-Analysis of Case Studies



Understanding how a building will reflect sunlight has gone from a rare requirement to a key consideration during the planning permission process in many jurisdictions. This increase in scrutiny has led to an increase in interest in how problematic reflections can be reduced or eliminated through the design of the building envelope. Despite this interest, there is often a lack of awareness in how effective different mitigative approaches will be under various circumstances, and of the side effects that mitigation measures can create. This paper aims to fill this knowledge gap through a review of several real-world examples where problematic solar reflection impacts have required mitigation, either in the design stage or post-construction. The benefits and challenges associated with the different mitigation approaches are compared, and the criteria for selecting one approach over another are developed through an analysis of these case studies conducted by the authors and others.




How a building reflects solar energy was a topic that traditionally did not receive serious scrutiny during building design and permitting. Most regulations and guidelines that did exist were vague

Access Restricted

Members get unlimited access to all of our resources. Join now for the best value.

Urban Reflections Causes and Impacts

An in-depth discussion on the physics and consequences of reflected light in the built environment is outside the scope of this paper and can be found in other works (

Access Restricted

Members get unlimited access to all of our resources. Join now for the best value.

Defining the Need for Mitigation

While frameworks exist in literature for defining reflection impacts (Danks, Good and Sinclair 2016a), there are currently no universally accepted criteria for defining when mitigation is required. It is incumbent

Access Restricted

Members get unlimited access to all of our resources. Join now for the best value.

The Mitigation Toolbox

Reflection concerns are often investigated in the later design phases (if at all). This means that three approaches are typically pursued to mitigate problematic reflections: modifying facade materiality, obstructing the

Access Restricted

Members get unlimited access to all of our resources. Join now for the best value.


Ideally, features to control reflected light would be incorporated during the earliest phases of design. More commonly, mitigating elements are added later in design, and in some cases during or

Access Restricted

Members get unlimited access to all of our resources. Join now for the best value.


The authors would like to thank all those who provided suggestions and comments on this text. We also acknowledge the support of our employer in the preparation and publication of this work.

Rights and Permissions

City of London. 2017. "Planning Advice Note: Guidelines and best practices for assessing solar glare in the City of London." London, July. Accessed May 31, 2019. of Sydney. 2012. "Central Sydney Development Control Plan." Sydney. http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.go... of Toronto. 2017. "SP-18: Railway Lands Central Secondary Plan." City of Toronto, November. Accessed June 5 2019.

Danks, R., J. Good, and R. Sinclair. 2016a. "Assessing reflected sunlight from building facades: A literature review and proposed criteria." Building and Environment 103: 193-202. doi:10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.04.017.

Danks, Ryan, Joel Good, and Ray Sinclair. 2016b. "Avoiding the Dreaded Death Ray." Facade Tectonics World Congress. Los Angeles: Tectonic Press. 31-41.

FAA. 2013. Interim Policy, FAA Review of Solar Energy Systems on Federally Obligated Airports, 78 FR 63276. United States Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration.

Farrior, C E, S A Bohlman, S Hubbell, and S W Pacala. 2016. "Dominance of the suppressed: Power-law size structure in tropical forests." Science 155-157. doi:10.1126/science.aad0592.

Garfield, Leanna. 2016. "The 'death ray hotel' burning Las Vegas visitors came up with a simple fix." Business Insider, June 30. Accessed June 4, 2019. Federal Environmental Agency. 2009. "Federal Immission Control Act." Accessed January 15, 2019.

Gibson, Anne. 2017. "Hear Auckland's screaming balconies." New Zealand Herald, March 20. Accessed June 3, 2019.

Gold, Alan L. 1990. "A Manhattan Skyscraper Is Told to Stop Whistling." The New York Times, December 7.

Leloup, Frederic, Peter Hanselaer, Jorg Versluys, Stefaan Forment, and St. Lieven KaHo. 2007. "BRDF and gloss measurements." Proceedings of the CIE Expert Symposium on Visual Appearance. Paris. 28-33.

Malagon, Elvia. 2018. "Look up: First falling ice signs of season out earlier this week in Loop." Chicago Tribune, November 28. Accessed June 12, 2019.

Markusoff, J. 2014. "When art attacks: City pulls sculpture after visitor’s jacket singed by reflected rays." October 8. Accessed July 21, 2017. News. 2010. "'Death Ray' at Vegas hotel pool heats up guests." Septeber 30. Accessed June 28, 2017.

Schiler, Marc. 2009. "Examples of Glare Remediation Techniques." PLEA 2009: Proc. 26th Conf. Passiv. Low Energy Archit. Quebec City.

Schiler, Marc, and Elizabeth Valmont. 2005. "Microclimatic Impact: Glare around the Walt Disney Concert Hall." Proceedings of the Solar World Congress 2005 Joint American Solar Energy Society/International Solar Energy Society Conference. Orlando.

Stuart, Andrew. 2018. "Why does the Beetham Tower hum in the wind?" Manchester Evening News, March 2. Accessed June 1, 2019.

Suk, Jae Yong, Marc Schiler, and Karen Kensek. 2007. "Post-Treatment Analysis of the Glare remediation of the Walt Disney Concert Hall." Solar 2007: Proceedings of the American Solar Energy Society Conference. Cleveland.

Viracon. 2019. VRE1-59 Performace Specifications. June 10. Accessed June 10, 2019.

Wainwright, O. 2013. "Walkie Talkie architect 'didn't realize it was going to be so hot'." September 6. Accessed July 22, 2017.

Whitely, Joan, and Alan Maimon. 2010. "Vdara visitor: ‘Death ray’ scorched hair." Las Vegas review Journal, September 24. Accessed June 6, 2019.

Yellowhair, Julius, and Clifford K Ho. 2015. "Assessment of Photovoltaic Surface Texturing on Transmittance Effects and Glint/Glare Impacts." ASME 2015 9th International Conference on Energy Sustainability collocated with the ASME 2015 Power Conference, the ASME 2015 13th International Conference on Fuel Cell Science, Engineering and Technology, and the ASME 2015 Nuclear Forum. San Diego: American Society of Mechanical Engineers. V002T11A003--V002T11A003.