Purpose ‐ The applications of geographic information systems (GIS) are described in the civil engineering literature for generation, visualisation and evaluation of the construction schedule. GIS use is also explored for construction quantity takeoffs and cost estimation. The purpose of this paper is to supplement the already explored capabilities of GIS in construction by providing the methodology for direct sunlight visualisation on buildings. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The proposed methodology for direct sunlight visualisation is to calculate the solar angles and use them for spatial distribution representation of the amount of sunlight received on different faces of a building by rendering it with the colour of varied gradients. The colour gradient on any face of a building depends upon the amount of direct sunlight received. The solar gain is demonstrated through the multi-dimensional data visualisation like sun angle variations with diurnal and annual cycles in a navigable 3D animation. Findings ‐ GIS-based methodology provides the planner a way to control the natural lighting and solar gain on a building which can be combined with the project schedule, quantity takeoffs, cost estimate and 4D visualisation in a single environment. Beginning with this idea, the planner may store and share information about a construction project, site and surrounding geography. Originality/value ‐ Most of the existing 4D CAD technologies do not have project management capabilities and are used mainly for the planning and design stage of a construction project. In comparison, GIS-based tools may be used in different stages. These are more management-based and allow more collaborative and cooperative relationships between designer, constructor and client. By using a GIS-based approach, construction documents like schedules, drawings, quantity takeoffs, cost estimates, project specifications and direct sunlight visualisations are more consistent with each other.