Framing the sun and buildings as commons

Jeffrey R.S. Brownson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study frames integration of Solar Energy Conversion Systems (SECS) with the built environment, addressing on-site limitations for resource allocation in the urban context. The Sun, buildings, and solar technologies are investigated as resource systems within Ostrom's framework of the commons and shared governance, with associated goods (as resource units) appropriated from light conversion (products of daylight, heat, power, shade, money). Light is transient and unevenly distributed across the hours of the day across the year. Building surfaces utilized to convert light into useful products such as electricity are often "area-constrained" and cannot provide total power to all occupants in urban structures. Being unevenly distributed over time and being area-constrained makes the appropriated goods from the solar resource system scarce to commercial buildings and multi-family residences. Scarce commodities require management strategies to distribute the variable returns derived from technologies such as PV and solar hot water. The balance between sustainable urban communities and limited surface area to deliver solar products to all occupants will soon drive communities to consider how the solar goods are managed and allocated. Examples demonstrate management of solar resource and associated goods through collective actions of local communities via utility sponsored models, solar gardens, and crowd-sourced investment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-673
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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