Shade is taken seriously in this country – for good reason!
Does that mean we should stay indoors? Not at all! With the strength of our sun, and 2 out of 3 adults suffering skin cancer before the age of 70, we need to plan our shaded areas effectively.
But what are the major considerations when installing a shade structure in a public area? How can we ensure maximum protection from UV rays, while also maintaining comfort for users, and an aesthetically pleasing appearance in keeping with the environment?
Below are seven questions to ask to ensure you select the type of shade structure that will get the best use from the space.
1. A ‘natural’ or ‘built’ shade structure?
A major consideration is the form your structure takes: is a ‘natural’ shade structure possible or must it be built?
Sometimes, in parks and natural areas, medium height (7-15 metres) broad-leafed trees or denser foliage can provide good protection from the sun. Use rapid growing varieties if you choose this option, but avoid the smaller leaf varieties.
Normally, a large man-made canopy can provide a greater area of shade, with more guarantee of UV protection all year round. In winter, deciduous trees lose their leaves and, though the sun is less intense, it can still cause damage – so shade is still necessary.
The nature of your environment is obviously key to consider here – especially the ground surface: is it grass, sand, or concrete?
2. How many people will use it?
The throughput of people using the shaded area also needs careful consideration. If this is known, then the size of the shaded area can be planned accordingly. Of course the larger a shade structure, the more shade it can generally provide.
In busy public car parks, like those outside shopping malls, vast areas need to be shaded for the adequate protection of cars and people at the busiest times; conversely, in small public playgrounds in parks, smaller shaded areas will usually suffice.
3. What times of the day and months of the year is shade needed?
This is a critical consideration, as it will determine the size, style, shape and location of your structure.
If you need sun on winter mornings but shade on summer afternoons, then you need to pay careful attention to the height and angle of your structure in relation to the sun. The company designing your structure should have the ability to produce a 3D model of the proposed structure and show shadow maps for different times of day throughout the seasons. As an example, if you need shade at 5pm on a summer afternoon your structure may end up almost beside the area to be shaded in order to block the sun at the right time.
4. What is the budget?
Cost is nearly always a factor – whether in public or private spaces.
Permanent structures such as awnings or metal roofs tend to be expensive; temporary structures like tents and marquees, though cheaper, are often not suitable.
An excellent mid-range option is shade sails. These are available in many different designs and configurations. Though they are relatively easy to assemble, they are engineered to withstand the harshest climates and most of the best quality structures will last for at least 10-15 years.
When you calculate costs, don’t forget to factor in the length of the warranty and maintenance costs – these can mount up. A cheaper design may result in higher maintenance costs over the life of the structure.
5. What materials should be used?
Your choice of materials will help to determine the quality of your shade structure.
Shade sails again strike a good balance. If you select a quality manufacturer, you will find wellengineered structures that withstand the elements, with high quality shade cloth materials that effectively block UV sunlight.
If you require maximum UV protection consider high-grade PVC which blocks 100% of harmful UV rays but allows around 8% of diffused natural light from the visible spectrum to keep the ambience of the area nice. Metal roofs block 100% of UV rays but consider for heat radiating from the underside of the roof.
6. How likely is vandalism?
In most urban areas there is a chance of vandalism in public spaces. If this is the case, then your shade structures need to take precautions, so that the vandals don’t get a ‘free run’.
While it is impossible to provide 100% protection, you can select structures that are more vandalresistant than others.
This includes minimum height clearances and installing anti-vandal climbing devices on columns. Make sure that the shade cloth you choose is fire retardant and that the columns of your structure are well-located. Of course, other precautions like having signage and adequate lighting are also good deterrents. Read our blog post here on protecting against vandalism. We have found that usually you don’t need to make a structure ‘vandal-proof’, you just need to make it difficult to access and damage. Most vandals don’t like working for their fun! Make it hard work to vandalise your structure.
7. Blend in or make a statement?
While the main intention of your shade structure is to protect people and their families, you also need to decide whether you want your structure to blend into the background or make some kind of statement.
In supermarket car parks for instance, shade structures can be used to increase visibility and attract more patrons. Some organisations may want to use corporate colours on their structures; park and school authorities, however, may opt for simpler, more neutral designs that blend in with existing architecture and the general surroundings.
Greenline specialises in providing a large range of high quality shade structures for public and commercial spaces. These are designed to help you combat damage from the sun. Contact us for more information if you need a creative shade sail solution for your public space.