Radiation view factor for building applications: Comparison of computation environments

Marzia Alam*, Mehreen Saleem Gul, Tariq Muneer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


Computation of view factors is required in several building engineering applications where radiative exchange takes place between surfaces such as ground and vertical walls or ground and sloping thermal or photovoltaics collectors. In this paper, view factor computations are performed for bifacial solar photovoltaic (PV) collectors based on the finite element method (FEM) using two programming languages known as Microsoft Excel-Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and Python. The aim is to determine the computer response time as well as the performance of the two languages in terms of accuracy and convergence of the numerical solution. To run the simulations in Python, an open source just-in-time (JIT) compiler called Numba was used and the same program was also run as a macro in VBA. It was observed that the simulation response time significantly decreased in Python when compared to VBA. This decrease in time was due to the increase in the total number of iterations from 400 million to 250 billion for a given case. Results demonstrated that Python was 71-180 times faster than VBA and, therefore, offers a better programming platform for the view factor analysis and modelling of bifacial solar PV where computation time is a significant modelling challenge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3826
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2019


  • Bifacial solar photovoltaic (PV)
  • Building energy exchange
  • Python programming language
  • View factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Control and Optimization
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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