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Can I attach a shade sail to my building?

Are you wondering if you can attach a shade sail or structure to your building? Well, the answer is yes – but there are a few factors to consider before you decide to go ahead with it.

These are the three main factors, and they are discussed in more detail in the article below. 

  • Can your building support the loads/tension?
  • Will it increase or decrease the price of your project? 
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages?
Custom Shade Sails

Can the building support the loads/tension of the structure?

The first thing we look at when deciding if you can attach a shade sail to your building, is what the building is made of. Following are some common building materials.

  • Brick: unfortunately, if yours is a brick building, the answer is no. Masonry is designed to support vertical loads only – tensioning a fabric structure would put horizontal loads onto the building. 
  • Façade over metal framing: in this situation it is possible to attach a shade sail to your building, although the engineering records will need to be checked to make sure it will withstand the load.
  • Concrete: yes, it is possible to attach a sail to a concrete building, but again we will still need to check with the engineer.

Once you have determined what the building is made of, you then need to locate the engineering records for the building. If your building is very old, you may struggle to find the correct records. For newer buildings, check with the engineer for the building.

The third aspect to consider regarding engineering is liability. Who takes responsibility in the event of a failure?  Yes, a structure could be attached to your building – but if the shade sail engineer only looks at their structure, and the building engineer only considers their structure, then you have a ‘gap’ in responsibility.

How we approach the engineering aspect at Greenline: we prefer to have our engineer produce a load report of our shade sail, which is then assessed by the building engineer. The building engineer will determine whether the building can support it, and if there are other recommendations for reinforcements for the building. Once both parties are satisfied that it can be safely attached, we proceed with construction.

Will attaching a fabric structure to your building increase or decrease the price of your project?

Things that increase the price:

  • The actual attachments used to attach the shade sail to the building 
  • Any modification or waterproofing needed for the building. 
    • If holes have been drilled into the building, these will need to be waterproofed to ensure no rain or other runoff water can enter the building – this is especially important if it is a façade. 
    • If, most notably in the case for metal framing, the building’s framing needs to be upgraded to support the imposed loading.
  • Engineering fees – both your shade sail engineer and the building engineer will incur fees for their time and expertise.

Things that reduce the cost:

  • If your building has exposed structural members, a shade sail can often be attached to these relatively easily and cost effectively.
  • Less footings to dig and therefore less machine and concrete costs. This is a particularly good cost saver if you are building it on rocky soil or other types of soil that are difficult to dig footings into.
  • Less steel work, as there will be less posts involved in the final structure.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of attaching a shade sail to your building? 


  • Less posts. Not only will this reduce the cost, but it also increases the amount of usable area under and around your structure. Along with this, less posts will also mean less risk of people bumping into posts, which is something to consider if it is a highly pedestrianised area.
  • Continuous cover from the building –A sail attached to the building will give you better protection from the elements, whereas a free standing structure will always have a gap between itself and the building.


  • Time – attaching shade sails to your building will involve back and forth between engineers which is likely to increase the overall timeframe of your project.
  • Depending on your building, it can become complex and costly if extensive building modifications are required. 
  • Attaching a shade sail to your building is not always possible with older buildings and some building materials.
  • There is a risk that of it not done right, and if there are gaps in responsibility, you could end up liable for a structural failure. 

Want to discuss your specific project? Give us a call and we can talk through the options with you.

Greenline designs and builds custom commercial shade and shelter structures for schools, councils, and sports clubs across Australia.