Shadow accrual maps: Efficient accumulation of city-scale shadows over time

Fabio Miranda, Harish Doraiswamy, Marcos Lage, Luc Wilson, Mondrian Hsieh, Claudio T. Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large scale shadows from buildings in a city play an important role in determining the environmental quality of public spaces. They can be both beneficial, such as for pedestrians during summer, and detrimental, by impacting vegetation and by blocking direct sunlight. Determining the effects of shadows requires the accumulation of shadows over time across different periods in a year. In this paper, we propose a simple yet efficient class of approach that uses the properties of sun movement to track the changing position of shadows within a fixed time interval. We use this approach to extend two commonly used shadow techniques, shadow maps and ray tracing, and demonstrate the efficiency of our approach. Our technique is used to develop an interactive visual analysis system, Shadow Profiler, targeted at city planners and architects that allows them to test the impact of shadows for different development scenarios. We validate the usefulness of this system through case studies set in Manhattan, a dense borough of New York City.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8283638
Pages (from-to)1559-1574
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Shadow accumulation
  • shadow accrual maps
  • urban development
  • visual analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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