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Do Shade Sails Need Engineering?

One questions that often comes up with clients is, are shade sails engineered? The quick answer is yes. Shade sails definitely should be engineered – and correctly engineered structures will last you much longer than poorly designed and engineered ones.

Why do they need engineering?

Structural engineering is effectively the process of designing the ‘bones and muscles’ of a structure. This allows the finished structure to withstand outside elements like wind and heavy rain, as well as day to day use of the structure. Sails are under high tension and if they were to come loose they can be dangerous, if not lethal. This isn’t a risk you can afford to take, especially if your shade sail is in a public space or part of an organisation like a school or childcare centre.

What do engineers’ factor in?

Engineers look at wind speeds, the terrain of the area, the size and height of your structure, other buildings in the area, the type of fabric being used (shade or all-weather/PVC), and more. All these factors play a part in determining the size of steel needed, the type of connections required, and the depth of the foundations.

outdoor shade structures

Generic Engineering

Generic engineering is where an engineer looks at a region as a whole and uses the typical/normal measurements for factors like wind, terrain in that area and recommends the engineering specifications for structures. These engineering recommendations are then used for any structures which are built in this region.

– Allows engineering to be done in ‘bulk’ which saves money.
– No need to liaise with an engineer for every project, which makes the project timeline shorter.

– if the generic parameters used don’t exactly match your site, the engineering recommendations may be unsuitable
– although the structure may be sound, it may not be as efficiently engineered as it could be.

Site Specific Engineering

Site specific engineering is where each project is engineered based on the exact factors in the location of the structure. This means factors like surrounding buildings, and specific
terrain differences can be factored into the calculations, as well as more precise winds speeds and wind directions.

– peace of mind that the structure is engineered specifically for your site’s conditions
– produces the most efficient structure for your site

– as engineers are used for every project, this adds to the cost of the project, and will extend the timeline slightly.

To wrap this up, neither generic or site-specific engineering is always the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to go – but your shade structure absolutely does need to be engineered!

Make sure your contractor is using an engineer that is registered with the NER and you receive a copy of the engineering drawings and certificate.