Shade is More Than a Retrofit

From walkways to swimming pools, and playgrounds to school study areas, commercial shade sails and structures are an important part of maximising the use of an outdoor space. So why do so many outdoor projects forget to include shade in their plans? Retrofitting shade solutions is common, but there is a much easier, and more cost effective, way.

The importance of shade in construction planning

Why do we say that shade is more than a retrofit? Because in a large percentage of projects shade is an afterthought – and it makes designing and constructing shade a more costly and less efficient process. As a result, outdoor spaces are completed and ready for use – but people don’t use it as much as they could, because they are stuck in the stifling summer sun!

Imagine you work in planning and development for a local council, and you build a new playground for families to use. You’ve done your due diligence by putting it in an area with shops or food vendors nearby, it’s a beautiful multi-use location, and it provides a great place for kids in the local community. Then, a month after the playground is opened, people stop coming. Why? Possibly because their kids are getting sunburned, or the parents want to sit and relax nearby, perhaps eat their lunch, but they can’t because they too are getting burned by the sun. This can be avoided by planning some cost-effective shade solutions before you begin the project.

Ultimately, retrofitting a shade solution is always possible, but the cost and complexity of the project goes up. If you plan accordingly and work the shade in with the rest of your construction, it’s a lot simpler and therefore more cost effective in both design and installation.

What are the benefits of quality shade products?

In any project, you seek to understand the benefits of every aspect of the project – and shade is no different. There are many benefits from quality shade structures over and above making your space more usable.

Creating more usable areas

When planning any sort of development, whether it be in a school, a sports facility or a public space, it’s all about maximising your available space. In Australia, we get plenty of sunshine which is great, but there is now a stronger emphasis on staying in the shade due to the health risks associated with UV.

Building shaded areas into your plan from day one means you’ve got more space that can be used by everyone, such as seated areas, outdoor learning environments for schools, outdoor dining and much more. Rather than leaving empty, unused space out in the sun, you can install shade structures and get more out of your open areas.

Safer environments

Safety is paramount when designing any outdoor space, and that includes sun safety. Too often, outdoor areas such as playgrounds, cafes and communal areas are designed with plenty of safety features except for the dangers that are above us every single day – UV! Elements like gates, fencing, handrails and child-friendly landscaping are always included when developing an area, but we often forget to provide shade.

Ultimately, shaded areas make the environment safer for everybody to enjoy. Whether it’s a seated area at the park or shade structures for school playgrounds, those spaces can benefit greatly from appropriate shade, and depending on the shade cloth or other fabric used, you can block 80-100% of UVR.

Increase validity of proposed development

When recommending proposed developments, there are a lot of aspects to think about. As a school principal or P&C, you have a wonderful idea to create outdoor learning areas for students. You’ll need the backing of several stakeholders, including the financial controller. If you’ve planned everything properly, including the type of shade you want to include, the proposal looks a lot more complete.

When seeking funding for a project, whether in a school or a local council, you need to make a solid business case outlining the benefits. Shaded areas can be used by more people regardless of weather conditions, so planning for this can give your proposal extra weight.

Enhancing reputations 

Bulky roof structures are outdated, so you need something with more visual appeal. Modern shade solutions have great aesthetics, making your outdoor space look modern, fresh and welcoming. People naturally gravitate towards areas that look clean and new, and shade structures are increasingly better designed and engineered to be lower maintenance and last longer.

For councils, you want public spaces and sporting facilities to be used. Schools and education facilities want to attract families and build a reputation as a quality, innovative institution. Shaded outdoor learning and collaborative spaces certainly fill these needs, and they leave a great legacy for the people involved in development.

Cost-effective use of space

When you consider the different types of shade and shelter that are available, the price certainly varies. But the price alone doesn’t determine how cost-effective something is. Take into consideration the long-term benefits, ease of installation, maintenance costs and other whole of life costs before deciding what’s the best value for money.

Shade solutions provide a much more cost-effective form of shelter than building a large structure, especially timber ones that require a lot more maintenance to keep them looking good. You can find star shade systems, for example, which is great for seated areas. With just one post and a lot of shade, it’s cheaper to install and maintenance is minimal due to smart design and correct installation.

When designing an area with large space to be shaded, structures like Barrel Vaults and COLA’s can be considered instead of an enclosed building structure. A school, for example, may need more space and decide to build a covered outdoor learning area instead of a new classroom. Less heating and energy costs, less cleaning and maintenance, and it’s an impressive, modern solution that is constructed in weeks instead of months! 

Lower long-term costs

Finally, the long-term costs of shaded areas need to be considered before you make a final decision. Do you want a painted timber structure that flakes and needs constant repainting? Heavy roofing structures that always need repairs? Or would you prefer a shade sail solution that practically looks after itself? Most modern commercial shade sails are made from a PVC fabric or shade mesh, both of which are easy to maintain. In terms of maintenance, it pays to make the smart choice when designing and building, rather than retrofitting later.

Considerations when choosing a shade installer

All of these benefits are great, but how do you know where to go for these commercial outdoor shades? Being a niche part of the construction industry, installing shade structures requires an expert. Here are some things to look for when choosing a shade installer.

Adherence to safe working practices

Safety is key during any type of construction, and installing shade is no different. When you have contractors working on your property, you need to make sure they’re fully insured. Request copies of insurance and quality certification like ISO9001 to help you make an informed contractor decision.

Ask as many questions as possible about their safety practices, how they will secure the work area, and what additional precautions they’re willing to implement to ensure a safe installation.

Reliability to deliver on time

Is there anything more frustrating on a project than contractors not delivering their work on time? Of course, there are unforeseen circumstances such as weather but some allowance is usually built into timelines for this. When you are in the planning and procurement stages consider using a design and construct (D&C) partner who will take your project right from concept to completion.

Whether you’re building a school playground, a common area or a walkway, traditionally there are many contractors involved. If one fails to complete their work on time, it can hold up construction. Using a D&C partner will cut down on overall project time, as well as minimising the time you spend on the project internally.

Products are as described

There’s never any harm in asking to see a company’s previous work. Have they installed any shade structures in the local area that you can go and check out? This can give you peace of mind that their work is of a high standard, and also gives you a glimpse into the quality of the products. New installations are great, but asking to see some of their work from a few years ago is also good. This way, you can also see how the products hold up over time.

Remember, you probably need to convince a range of stakeholders that your shaded areas are a worthwhile investment, and that’s hard to do if you don’t have any evidence of how they may look once installed. So, do your research carefully, and make sure the shade solutions you’re considering are of high quality.

Professional shade designers, not just installers

Finally, it’s so important that you look for specialist shade companies. As mentioned earlier, shade construction is a niche industry. Experience in working with fabric structures is essential to make sure you get a structure that is long lasting, and low maintenance.

You should be able to go to your shade professionals and ask them to work in tandem with structure designers to come up with the best solutions. The truth is, there are many shade options available, and only the experts can really tell you which options are best for your individual project.

Does retrofitting a shade solution work too?

Retrofitting shade solutions is very common, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing it this way. Plus, there are plenty of valid reasons you need to retrofit. A building may have been recently repurposed as a café. As such, the area they use for outdoor seating was never used before, and shade wasn’t necessary.

If you have outdoor areas that you want to get more use out of, retrofitting shade solutions is a great way to start. Give the area some shelter, and you open up more options for how you use that space, and how often you use it.

If you’re able to plan ahead and include shade in your development and building plans, it’s the cheapest and most effective way to go. Otherwise, you can always retrofit later on. Greenline designs and installs shade systems large and small. With long lasting, low maintenance structures that have a great visual appeal, you can’t go wrong.

If you’d like to discuss shade options for your outdoor space, we’d love to hear from you. Contact the experienced team at Greenline today, and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs.