# Calculation of View Factors for Building Simulations with an Open-Source Raytracing Tool

^{1}

^{2}

^{3}

^{*}

## Abstract

**:**

## 1. Introduction

_{12}from ${A}_{1}$ to ${A}_{2}$ is the fraction of radiation leaving surface one that reaches surface two directly [1]. Likewise, the view factor F

_{21}is the fraction of radiation leaving surface two that reaches surface one directly.

^{2})). In instances where the term is capitalized in uppercase as “RADIANCE”, it refers to the raytracing software that will be discussed in the subsequent sections.

_{12}can be derived by considering differential surface elements $d{A}_{1}$ and d${A}_{2}$ on ${A}_{1}$ and ${A}_{2}$ respectively. For the two area elements, the view factor is:

_{1}and dA

_{2}, θ

_{1}is the angle between the surface-normal of dA

_{1}and the line connecting dA

_{1}and dA

_{2}, and θ

_{2}is the angle between the surface-normal of dA

_{2}and the line connecting dA

_{1}and dA

_{2}. The view factor between dA

_{1}and the entire area A

_{2}can be calculated as:

_{1}and A

_{2}obey the following relation:

## 2. RADIANCE: Theoretical Basis and General Calculation Methodology

#### 2.1. Introduction and Background

_{e}(θ

_{e}, φ

_{e}) is the emitted radiance in W/(sr*m

^{2}), L

_{r}(θ

_{r}, φ

_{r}) is the reflected radiance, L

_{i}(θ

_{i}, φ

_{i}) is the incident radiance and ρ

_{bd}(θ

_{i}, φ

_{i}

_{,}θ

_{r}, φ

_{r}) is the bidirectional reflectance-transmittance distribution function in sr

^{−1}. As indicated by the terms L

_{e}, L

_{r}, and L

_{i}in Equation (4), the raytracing process calculates radiant energy emitted, reflected, and incident (respectively) at every sampled surface point.

^{2}) and radiance (W/(sr*m

^{2})) values for annual daylighting simulations [24]. In the following section, we discuss the functionality, theoretical basis and syntax of rcontrib, and propose how it can be used to calculate view factors.

#### 2.2. Calculating View Factors

_{1}at a given differential surface dA

_{1}is its view factor multiplied by π. This is syntactically expressed and illustrated in Figure 3.

_{1}is specified by the cartesian coordinates (x

_{1}, y

_{1}, z

_{1}) and direction vector (vx

_{1}, vy

_{1}, vz

_{1}). The green dots on the surface indicate Monte Carlo sampling which is controlled by the parameter N for ambient divisions (-ad) and limit weight (-lw) as shown in Figure 3b. The parameter for ambient bounces needs to be retained to its default value of one to ensure that no diffuse interreflection between surfaces is considered. For standard rcontrib simulations relating to electric lights and daylight, the ambient bounces are usually set to four and higher.

- For a given infinitesimal area dA
_{1}, N rays are stochastically mapped over a hemispherical basis as shown in Figure 4. The approach for randomly mapping these rays is based on the methodology proposed by Shirley and Chiu [26]. For the random sampling to converge, such that the results from two independent ray tracing processes are numerically within a tolerance range of less than 1%, a large number of samples is required. - For each ray that strikes the geometry of the surface(s) identified through “surfaceIdentifier”, a contribution is added. The contribution of a single ray will be equal to π/N, where the presence of the value of π is owing to the use of irradiance integral.
- The sum of all ray contributions to the surface identified through the surface identifier constitutes the fraction of the total hemispherical basis viewed by the infinitesimal area. This fraction constitutes an approximation of the view factor. As explained through Figure 3c, the output generated through RADIANCE is the approximate view factor multiplied by a factor of π.

#### 2.3. Specifying Inputs and Interpreting Outputs

^{®}, Sketchup

^{®}, Rhino3D

^{®}or other similar tools and then export it into a compatible format consisting of polygons. Several free translators and plugins exist for exporting 3D-geometry from CAD software like AutoCAD [30], Sketchup [31] and Rhino3D [32] into RADIANCE format.

_{1}and a finite planar surface A

_{2}is being calculated. The first step involves the creation of the octree from the surface geometry using oconv. The second step invokes rcontrib to calculate the “contribution coefficient” through Monte Carlo raytracing. The octree “geo.oct”, generated through oconv in the previous step, is one of the inputs for rcontrib.

## 3. Validation of RADIANCE Generated Results against Analytical Solutions

#### 3.1. Differential Element to Finite Parallel Rectangle

#### 3.2. Differential Element to Rectangle in a Plane at 90° to Plane of Element

#### 3.3. Element in a Plane to a Sphere

#### 3.4. Energy Balance

## 4. View Factors for Complex Shapes and Obstructions

#### 4.1. Complex Shapes with Curvature

#### 4.2. Incorporating Obstructions

## 5. Impact of Calculation Parameters on Accuracy, Repeatability of Results, and Runtime

## 6. Discussion

## 7. Conclusions

## Author Contributions

## Funding

## Institutional Review Board Statement

## Informed Consent Statement

## Conflicts of Interest

## Nomenclature

${A}_{1},{A}_{2}$ | Two arbitrarily oriented surfaces |

$d{A}_{1},d{A}_{2}$ | Differential surface elements of A_{1} and A_{2} respectively. |

F_{12} | Diffuse view factor from surface A_{1} to A_{2}. |

${F}_{d{A}_{1}-d{A}_{2}}$ | Diffuse view factor from surface dA_{1} to dA_{2}. |

${\theta}_{1}$ | The angle between the surface-normal of dA_{1} and the line connecting dA_{1} and dA_{2} |

${\theta}_{2}$ | The angle between the surface-normal of dA_{2} and the line connecting dA_{1} and dA_{2} |

$r$ | Distance between surfaces dA_{1} and dA_{2} |

θ | Polar angle measured from the surface normal. |

φ | Azimuthal angle. |

${L}_{r}\left({\theta}_{r},{\phi}_{r}\right)$ | Reflected radiance in W/(sr*m^{2}), |

${L}_{e}\left({\theta}_{r},{\phi}_{r}\right)$ | Emitted radiance in W/(sr*m^{2}) |

${L}_{i}\left({\theta}_{i},{\phi}_{i}\right){\rho}_{bd}$ | Incident radiance in W/(sr*m^{2}), |

${\rho}_{bd}\left({\theta}_{i},{\phi}_{i};{\theta}_{r},{\phi}_{r}\right)$ | Bidirectional reflectance-transmittance distribution function in sr^{−1} |

${E}_{ind}\left({\theta}_{i},{\phi}_{i}\right)$ | Indirect irradiance in W/m^{2} |

oconv | RADIANCE program that is used for creating an octree structure. |

rcontrib | RADIANCE program that is used for raytracing. |

-I | rcontrib option that assigns irradiance mode of calculation. |

-ad | rcontrib option that specifies the number of ambient divisions. |

-ab | rcontrib option that specifies the number of ambient bounces. |

-lw | rcontrib option to specify the limit weight parameter. |

-m | rcontrib option to specify the modifier of the finite surface whose view factor is to be calculated. |

-w | rcontrib option to turn off warnings. |

-h | rcontrib option to turn off the header. This enables only the result of the calculation being generated as the output. |

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**Figure 1.**The geometry and variables for calculating view factor between two surfaces A

_{1}and A

_{2}.

**Figure 2.**Schematic diagram for a conventional RADIANCE simulation. The values in rectangles refer to individual executable programs. The programs ‘Generator’, ‘Driver’ and ‘Filter’ refer to generic third-party programs that interface with RADIANCE inputs and outputs.

**Figure 3.**Calculation of view factor between a differential surface and a finite surface with rcontrib. The dots on the finite surface in (

**a**) indicate the sampling controlled by the -ad parameter. As shown by (

**b**), increased sampling will improve the estimation of the view factor. An explanation of the terms in the syntax (

**c**) is provided in the nomenclature.

**Figure 4.**An illustration of the original sampling pattern employed in RADIANCE. The dots represent individual samples over the projected hemisphere [23].

**Figure 5.**The proposed workflow for calculating view factors with RADIANCE. RADIANCE programs are identified through rectangles, and inputs and outputs are denoted through ellipses. The dotted figures represent a script and output that is external to RADIANCE. The colors used in this figure are complimentary to the ones used in Figure 3c.

**Figure 6.**Specifying materials and shapes in RADIANCE. (

**a**) Shows the general template. (

**b**,

**c**) Provide examples of a material type and shape type respectively. (

**d**) shows a visualization of the geometry defined through the combination of (

**b**,

**c**).

**Figure 7.**A surface comprised of two polygons and same material. (

**a**) Shows the definition of the surface in ASCII format and (

**b**) shows a RADIANCE-rendered image of the surface.

**Figure 8.**Surfaces created by using multiple polygons. All the surfaces shown above were first modeled in Sketchup

^{®}and then exported into the RADIANCE format using the plugin Su2Rad.

**Figure 9.**Different configurations of differential surfaces that can be specified through a single file, and therefore can be used in a single calculation. The shape in (

**a**) illustrates a single differential surface. Shapes in (

**b**,

**c**) illustrate differential surfaces aligned along a line and distributed across an area respectively. The shape shown in (

**d**) illustrates surface normals of planar surfaces that were created by subdividing a spherical surface.

**Figure 11.**View factor calculation between a differential planar element and finite parallel rectangle. The geometry is shown in (

**a**) and a screen-capture of the corresponding RADIANCE calculation is shown in (

**b**).

**Figure 12.**View factor between a differential planar element to rectangle in plane 90° to plane of element as shown in (

**a**) with the corresponding calculation in (

**b**).

**Figure 13.**View factor between a differential planar element and a sphere as shown in (

**a**) with the corresponding calculation in (

**b**). The sphere considered for the calculation is comprised of 595 polygons. The sphere in (

**a**) shows a reduced number of polygons to improve legibility of the figure.

**Figure 14.**View factor between a differential surface, indicated by the purple arrow in (

**a**), and surfaces of a box that encloses it. The corresponding calculation is shown in (

**b**).

**Figure 15.**An assortment of curved shapes whose view factors can be calculated by the planar sub-division and ray-arrangement for each shape. As explained previously, once the view factors between rays and finite planar shapes have been calculated, further results can be derived through superposition rule. (

**a**,

**c**) Show open and closed curved surfaces respectively while (

**b**) shows two open flat surfaces.

**Figure 16.**A comparison of the geometric setup and corresponding command-line arguments for view factor calculations without obstruction (

**a**) and with obstruction (

**b**). In (

**b**), the additional sphere constitutes the obstruction.

**Figure 17.**The impact of sampling parameters on accuracy and repeatability of results in five successive calculations. (

**a**) Denotes low parameters with values of 100 and 0.01 for -ad and -lw respectively, and (

**b**) denotes high parameters.

**Figure 18.**The variation in average error as per ambient divisions for the calculations considered in Section 3.1 (Parallel), Section 3.2 (Perpendicular), Section 3.3 (Sphere) and Section 3.4 (EnergyBalance).

**Figure 20.**Variation of results with progressive increase in sampling controlled through ambient divisions.

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**MDPI and ACS Style**

Subramaniam, S.; Hoffmann, S.; Thyageswaran, S.; Ward, G. Calculation of View Factors for Building Simulations with an Open-Source Raytracing Tool. *Appl. Sci.* **2022**, *12*, 2768.
https://doi.org/10.3390/app12062768

**AMA Style**

Subramaniam S, Hoffmann S, Thyageswaran S, Ward G. Calculation of View Factors for Building Simulations with an Open-Source Raytracing Tool. *Applied Sciences*. 2022; 12(6):2768.
https://doi.org/10.3390/app12062768

**Chicago/Turabian Style**

Subramaniam, Sarith, Sabine Hoffmann, Sridhar Thyageswaran, and Greg Ward. 2022. "Calculation of View Factors for Building Simulations with an Open-Source Raytracing Tool" *Applied Sciences* 12, no. 6: 2768.
https://doi.org/10.3390/app12062768