Southall’s research was stimulated by the challenges of teaching architecture and interior design students to understand the relationships between the technical and experiential aspects of artificial light and daylight within their design proposals. Despite a growing international imperative to ensure that students fully understand the technical and environmental implications of their design decisions, there were no simple or immediate tools available to assist their understanding and assessment of the quantitative and qualitative impact of light on their designs.
Southall investigated digital solutions that would provide a low cost, effective tool, and that would both enhance student learning and aid professionals in the design of effective lighting. He explored High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging and how to integrate these images into the more familiar software packages students use in the development of their designs. The result of his research is the Lighting Visualiser (LiVi), a new open source freeware and plugin for the 3D content creation suite Blender. LiVi can export the visual Blender geometry and materiality, run a lighting analysis, and import the chosen lighting metric back into Blender for visualisation. Therefore it represents a close coupling between design creation, design assessment and performance visualisation within a single software package.
Initially supported by an award from the Higher Education Academy’s Centre for Education in the Built Environment (CEBE, £5.7k), LiVi is now in its third iteration. Southall was recently awarded a sabbatical to develop a similar tool for thermal modeling (EnVi); he aims to integrate the two packages into a prototype holistic analysis suite, for teaching and as an effective and invaluable tool for efficient and sustainable building design.