• What Is a Tension Structure? 5 Facts An Architect Needs To Know

    A lot of people – perhaps many of your clients — don’t know what a tension structure is. They may have seen one without knowing what it was, in which case they undoubtedly remarked on its distinctive appearance.

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  • How To Design An Architectural Canopy For Your Building

    An architectural canopy is a textbook example of melding form and function. When designing a canopy for your building, it’s tempting to start with the prettiest part first. After all, you probably have a mental picture of what you want to achieve. And even if you don’t, the visual aspects of an awning are usually what come to mind, because typically we don’t even notice the functional underpinnings.

    But you have to save the dessert for last, and concentrate on building a proper foundation so your architectural canopy will not only look great but perform exactly as you wish for as long as you want.

    The frame is your canopy’s skeleton and muscle.
    Framing systems can range from very lightweight for easy portability to the toughest, sturdiest materials appropriate for even extreme conditions. Typical frames are aluminum or galvanized steel.

    Several factors will affect which framing systems, fabrics and installation methods will serve you best. To design the most effective architectural canopy, you should think about:

    • Whether or not it needs to retract.
    • Whether it will be permanent, used seasonally or one-time temporary.
    • How dirty it will get, which can affect both color and material choices.
    • How wide it will be and how far out it will project.
    • Municipal codes or building-specific rules or restrictions.
    • Façade requirements, especially for retrofits, because the building must be able to comfortably support your awning.
    • Expected lifespan.

    Once you’ve established your framework you can cover it with a beautiful skin.
    Not all “skin” materials work with all framing systems, and of course there are pros and cons to every framing material and fabric. You’ll have to decide which factors are most important to your canopy’s performance and appearance. And while budget considerations may play a role, too, you cannot expect an architectural canopy made of minimalist materials to withstand harsh conditions or heavy, extended use.

    Woven acrylics are a good choice for lighter-duty applications, or you can use varying weights of vinyl — not the same vinyl material you may be familiar with that’s used for banners. Quality of thread used for stitching can greatly affect durability. And believe it or not, ink quality is a significant factor in determining how long your awning will continue to look like new.

    You rarely see an awning that’s just a plain color or design, perhaps because awnings are highly visual by nature. The artistic possibilities are virtually limitless. Especially if you plan to use high-tech digital printing, you get a truly blank canvas because you can literally print any image anywhere on your canopy. You can let your imagination go wild, creating a detailed look that’s splashy or subtle. Digital images can be directly printed on your canopy material or printed separately on pressure-sensitive vinyl.

    It all comes down to your overall goals and expectations.
    Designing an architectural canopy begins with the end in mind. Why do you need it? Your canopy can actually provide all these practical benefits:

    • Building entrance or individual business identification.
    • Weather protection.
    • Expanded sales, seating or special events area.
    • Enhanced marketing — brand awareness or reinforcement as well as providing a thematic complement to advertising, store-front or interior graphics, even company vehicles.
    • Exterior ornamentation – a purely decorative touch that adds individuality.

    If you’re designing a portico-style architectural canopy, be sure to calculate necessary minimum height for vehicles to safely pass underneath.

    When all these factors come together, the result is an architectural canopy that provides precisely the look and functionality you need. Consulting a professional awning expert to help sort out and weigh your options can save you time and frustration.

    In the end, choosing a design and production company with extensive experience and a long-standing reputation for superior quality will ensure you get not only sound advice but careful, detail-oriented construction and installation.


  • 7 Questions To Ask When Researching Awning Companies

    Just like awnings themselves, not all awning companies are the same, even though it may seem that way on the surface. It’s important to do your research before choosing a company, because most awnings are individually designed and constructed to meet your unique needs.

    You want to select a working partner that will give you the best all-around experience, from initial planning through installation and even beyond. Investing some time up front will protect the investment you make in your awning, whether you’re an architect, contractor, building or business owner or  homeowner.

    Asking these seven questions will help you sift through your list of prospective awning companies:

    Do they have the right knowledge and experience?
    Whether you need one small awning or enough for multiple locations, quality awning companies will have extensive experience working with all types of framing and fabric materials. They’ll have first-hand knowledge of your usage needs, your locale, your type of building and installation needs. You don’t want to be a guinea pig.

    How talented is their design staff?
    Even if you have your own art department, creating the most effective graphics for awnings is an art in itself. Choose a company that can give you exactly the look you want.

    Do they have state-of-the-art capability to make your design a reality?
    Quality awning companies use top-quality materials from proven, reliable suppliers. They employ the latest technology, equipment and production techniques to ensure your project meets the highest standards of workmanship and performance.

    Will you get solid advice and guidance?
    Pick a company that takes time to explain all your options, from functionality and other practical issues to making sure you’ll get full marketing impact from your new awning. They should work hand-in-hand with you every step of the way, helping you ask the right questions and pointing up opportunities or potential pitfalls only an insider expert would know. You don’t want to overlook anything or make a costly mistake.

    Are they good communicators?
    Quality awning companies will personally answer your initial phone call and listen attentively to your design needs. They’ll keep you in the loop throughout the production process, so you always know how your project is progressing. And they’ll be easily accessible after your awning is installed, in case you ever have questions or need assistance

    How’s their reputation?
    You certainly want to avoid awning companies that might flake out on you mid-project or disappear as soon as installation is complete. Instead, look for someone who is well-established. Get references from recent customers but also for projects that go back a few years.

    Ask about what the company and its staff were like to work with, because the best awning companies will make your project enjoyable and interesting and provide superior customer service. Ask other businesses in your area for referrals. And check out companies online, too.

    Remember, their warranty says a lot about the business, both the quality of materials they use and the work they do.

    Can they do it all?
    All-in-one awning companies will provide the most streamlined process. They understand how each aspect of your project needs to mesh so you won’t hit any snags during design and production, such as delays waiting on other suppliers or confusion based on miscommunication.

    You’ll be assured that all materials selected for your project, from framing to fabric to imprinting, are meant to work seamlessly together to provide the best results. You’ll get proper, professional installation that ensures superior performance as well as lasting good looks.

    Of course you’ll ask about price. But asking these key questions first will ensure you’re getting the best all-around value. Awning companies that provide that will give you confidence in knowing you’ll get the best possible return on your investment.

    Photo Credit:  yoppy  via Flickr

    Commercial Awnings

  • What Are The Advantages Of Digital Printing For Your Awnings?

    When it comes time to produce your new awning, you’ll find the many advantages of digital printing can help you achieve precisely the look you want, whether it’s sophisticated and subtle or can’t-miss-it outrageous.

    Digital processes use the latest technologies and inks to print directly onto your awning material or onto pressure-sensitive vinyl or thermal activated film which is then applied to the awning surface.

    One of the primary advantages of digital printing is “any image, anywhere” capability. That means you can use the same thematic artwork and colors for your awnings, tradeshow displays, even your vehicles or storefront windows as you use for advertising, POS materials and signage.

    With digital printing, you’ll have no worries about color variations or other problems, even if your graphics are larger-than-life huge or tiny and intricate, photos or text. The production advantages of digital printing ensure you can always count on crisp, clear images.

    Digital printing is smooth, with no fine edges around letters or graphics to form trap-shadows when your awning is lit. And digitally printed awnings can be rolled or retracted without wrinkling.

    Asking the right questions will help you make the right decisions for your awning.

    Ask about printing equipment and inks used.
    There are lots of printers on the market, but you should know that print quality and ink life can vary tremendously. Lesser quality work might look good at first, but over time the graphics can fade or otherwise deteriorate leaving you with something that doesn’t meet your standards after all.

    The best inks will last about five years. They’ll keep your awning looking good, making a consistently first-rate statement about your business.

    Ask about experience.
    Your awning is an important investment, so you should protect it by getting the best possible quality inside and out. All the advantages of digital printing won’t help if the company you’re working with doesn’t have the skills and knowledge of the latest printing techniques and inks to provide superior workmanship.

    Ask for advice. A professional expert will help you make the most effective use of all the advantages of digital printing.


  • Choosing The Right Restaurant Canopy: What You Need To Know

    A restaurant canopy can make a terrific positive impact on your business, both aesthetically and financially. It’s hard to think of another investment that can provide a broader range of benefits, and choosing the right canopy will help you take full advantage of all of them.

    A restaurant canopy can do so much more than protect your patrons from the weather. It’s stylish, helping your restaurant stand out among other businesses so it’s easy to find. A canopy provides extra outdoor seating, seasonally or even year-round, which can significantly improve customer enjoyment and your bottom line. And it’s a subtle but outstandingly effective marketing device.

    Whether you need a restaurant canopy for a one-time special event, seasonal covering or a permanent addition to your building, you’ll find options to create exactly what you want and need. In fact, the choices can be overwhelming, because there’s a lot more to choosing the right canopy than deciding on a color.

    The right canopy will be strong enough to do the job over time and good looking enough to set you apart from the crowd. That means you’ll need to consider things like:

    • How you need your canopy to function, practically and artistically.
    • When you’ll use it.
    • Where it will be located.
    • Whether it will be free-standing or attached.
    • What sort of graphic design elements you want to include.
    • How long you plan to use it.

    Once you know exactly what you need, you can work hand-in-hand with a professional awning company to design a restaurant canopy that has the right framing and fabric. Including an expert in your planning process will ensure you don’t miss out on opportunities you might not have considered.

    Choosing a quality awning vendor will give you peace of mind, so insist on a company that stands behind their work. There’s no point in investing in a restaurant canopy and then worrying about whether something might go wrong or, if you ever have a problem, whether fixing it will become a hassle.

    Now that you’re in the know, you can start planning your restaurant canopy.

    Photo Credit: Ben Husmann via Flickr


  • Shade Structures For Sports Fields: What To Consider

    Sports fields are a major investment, whether you’re managing a school district, public or private sports centers. Incorporating shade structures can make a tremendous difference in preserving that investment, increasing seasonal usability of outdoor sports areas and sheltering turf or other playing surfaces from potentially damaging effects of harsh weather.

    Shade structures protect people, too. We want to encourage both adults and kids to be active and participate in organized sports, but sometimes it’s just too uncomfortable outside without a roof over our heads.

    The American Cancer Society has made everyone aware of the importance of guarding against skin cancer, and now they’ve introduced new initiatives aimed specifically at protecting children. And some states such as California actually require schools to provide shade for children playing outdoors, if temperatures exceed 85 degrees.

    But what type of shade structures make the most sense for you?

    Every situation is somewhat different, and if you’re like most organizations, you’re especially budget-conscious these days. Before you make any decisions about what to purchase, consult a professional company that has a successful track record working with various types and sizes of sports facilities and other key factors relevant to your needs.

    They’ll help you understand various options that are available and identify the best-performing and most cost-effective choices. First, though, ask yourself these questions:

    • Do we require shade from the sun only, or multi-season protection from rain, wind, etc. too?
    • Will our shade structures be temporary or permanent? If “permanent,” what sort of lifespan do we expect?
    • What physical configuration will we need – should it be a single structure or several sections?
    • How elaborate does our structure need to be? You can add walls, windows and lighting capability to extend usability even further.

    Taking the time to plan your approach will ensure you make the smartest long-term investment. You can get shade structures that serve your needs well now and provide flexibility to serve you well in the future, too.

    Photo Credit: SJU Undergraduate Admissions via Flickr


  • What Are Mapes Awnings?

    Mapes Industries manufactures a wide variety of heavy-duty aluminum awnings. Although they’re typically used in architectural applications, for commercial or retail buildings, Mapes awnings are occasionally chosen for residential projects, too.

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  • Architectural Canopies: What Materials Should I Consider?

    As with any architectural design project, the materials you choose for architectural canopies will depend on each awning’s purpose. Since canopies frequently fulfill multiple needs, each functional goal needs to be considered.

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