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Do Shade Sails Need Engineering?

Commercial shade sails may seem like a simple enough structure, and the beauty of them is that they are to the untrained eye. However, behind the scenes, there is careful engineering that goes into the design of a shade sail so that it is safely and seamlessly integrated into the site.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about Greenline shade sails and the engineering process and services we provide.     

Do shade sails need engineering?

The quick answer is yes. Shade sails definitely should be correctly engineered – poorly engineered structures won’t last as long. Proper shade sail engineering is crucial because of the high tension that they carry. Ensuring that sails are structurally sound is a safety measure that should not be taken lightly. 

An inadequately engineered shade structure can pose a significant safety risk. This is something you do not want for a structure that is widely used in the education sector and community areas like council parks and commercial swimming pools.

Your shade sail must comply with Work, Health and Safety (WHS) and general safety standards. Make sure that your contractor is using an engineer that is registered with the NER and you receive a copy of the engineering drawings and certificate.

What factors do shade sail engineers take into account?

Greenline engineers factor in several aspects of a given job so that your shade structures are expertly engineered to industry standards. The following considerations are taken into account when making engineering plans for a shade sail:

  • Wind speeds and zones
  • The terrain of the area
  • Surrounding buildings 
  • The size and design of the shade sail
  • Fabric type (shade cloth or PVC all-weather fabric) 

These factors will influence the:

  • Size of steel required
  • Type of connections 
  • Depth of foundations 
  • Angle of steel
  • Overall possible designs

How Greenline engineers your shade sails

At Greenline, we offer generic engineering designs or tailored site-specific engineering services. No matter what you decide, your structures will be structurally sound and safe for installation.

Generic engineering design

Our generically engineered shade sails can be installed into a space once a certified engineer has examined the whole region for general factors like wind and terrain. 

Then, based on the qualities of the general area, the engineer determines the appropriate shape and design recommendations that are viable options for the area. 

The pros

  • Cost-effective – engineering is essentially done in bulk which cuts costs 
  • Less liaising 
  • Faster process 

The cons

  • Structure may be less efficiently engineered
  • Generic parameters are not always accurate to the site 

Site-specific engineering

Our site-specific engineering service takes into account the exact factors of the site for your project. The site’s wind speed, terrain and surrounding buildings are all surveyed to produce a seamlessly engineered structure that is tailored to the specifics of the intended area. 

The pros

  • Peace of mind that your structure is expertly engineered to suit the specifics of the site
  • The most efficient structure for your site is engineered

The cons

  • More liaison with engineers 
  • The cost and timeline are increased due to the need for an engineer for every site

Is council approval needed for my shade sail plans?

The short answer is that it depends on both the state and local council where you are located. As we are based in Wagga Wagga, Greenline generally services New South Wales and Victoria except for larger projects, which we can provide across the country under certain circumstances. Here, we have outlined the council approval guidelines for New South Wales and Victoria. 

New South Wales

In New South Wales, depending on the specifications of your local council you generally do not need to obtain approval for a shade sail of less than 40 square metres that is made from non-combustible materials. 


The guidelines for Victoria state that you do not need to seek council approval if your shade sail is under 3.6 metres in height and 20 square metres in area. It also must be positioned no closer than 2.5 metres from the front of a building to avoid going through the approval process. 

Get expertly engineered shade structures with Greenline today 

With Greenline, you’ll receive a high-quality shade structure that is engineered to perfection. Whether you’d like it to be generic or site-specific, an aesthetic and structurally sound design will be delivered.

Contact us today to get started on your shade solution journey. We live to optimise business organisations and community landscapes, helping our clients get the most out of their outdoor spaces. Transform your environment for the better by installing a structure with Greenline – the possibilities are endless.


Frequently asked questions

What makes a good shade sail?

A good shade sail should be properly designed, engineered and tensioned so that it does not flap in the wind. Maximum UV protection is also a component of a quality shade sail, with fabrics above 90% UV protection being ideal. At Greenline, we offer shade cloth fabric (90% – 95% UV protection) and PVC (100% UV protection). 

Can I install my own shade sail?

It is possible to install your own shade sail at your own home with a smaller sail bought from a retailer, but for larger, commercial shade sails, professional installation is strongly recommended. Greenline offers high-quality commercial sails that need to be installed professionally.

Should a shade sail move in the wind?

Shade sails are tension structures that should not move or flap much at all, even in relatively high winds. A shade sail that consistently flaps in the wind is likely not correctly engineered or needs to be tightened or re-tensioned.