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.

There are two aspects to all architectural canopies – how they look, and how they work.
Before you can consider the “skin” materials you want, you’ll need to determine what type of framing is needed. A relatively lightweight, retractable awning that only needs to provide periodic sun protection needn’t be as stout as a large all-weather portico canopy. Whatever the application, though, every awning must be supported by building attachment and/or its own legs.

Metals offer exceptional strength and durability. They are most commonly specified when architectural canopies are an integral part of the overall building design or the metals are being used for cosmetic reasons, as accents that add a touch of elegance or sophistication to an awning. Typical choices are steel or aluminum for framing, copper, brass or stainless steel for aesthetics.

Will the awning need to carry a message? That could be anything from the building’s name or street number to complex designs involving brand-specific artwork and colors. Again, the right fabrics for architectural canopies depend on several practical factors as well as your functional goals.

You should consider specifics such as :

  • Whether the canopy will be seasonal or permanent.
  • Whether it will be free-standing, like an event canopy or patio umbrella, or permanently attached.
  • Weather conditions.
  • Expected lifespan.
  • Your location – a busy urban intersection will be dirtier than a residential neighborhood.

Fabrics come in a wide variety of weights and colors that lend themselves to different applications. You can choose lightweight woven fabrics perfect for summer shade or heavier vinyls that keep out wind and rain and last for years. Certain fabrics are specially-manufactured to work best with front- or back-lighting, and digital printing allows “any artwork, anywhere” customization of graphics.

Regardless which type of materials you decide are best-suited for your functional and visual needs, choosing top quality materials will ensure you get the best performance and best return on your investment.