Architectural Considerations For Designing Shade Structures

Need shade? That seems simple enough but if you’re designing shade structures , there are actually many things to think about and, better yet, many options. As every architect knows, shade structures can be visually appealing as well as practical. Sometimes they can even be show-stoppers.

Shade structures perform many services.
They can protect pedestrians or vehicles from hot sun, not to mention other weather elements like wind, rain and snow. Properly placed, they can reduce solar heat that comes in through windows, improving indoor comfort and saving money and energy on air conditioning.

They can create outdoor seating or activity areas or expand the usability of those areas throughout several seasons. And they can shelter lawn or costly sports turf and court surfaces to protect your investment and ensure playing areas last as long as possible and perform well year in and year out

It’s not just the heat.
Shade structures provide protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. That’s important because UV light can damage skin and cause cancer, but it can also damage interior merchandise or furnishings near windows or the upholstery in your car. The American Cancer Society has initiated an all-out push in recent years to highlight the dangers of UV light, especially for kids. Some states now require schools to provide shade if it’s over 85 degrees when children are playing outdoors.

Well-designed and executed shade structures can impart an entirely different look to a commercial building, a home or an open area. They come in a multitude of looks and sizes, from umbrellas and traditional awnings to “tent” canopies and even free-form tension structures.

And although shade structures are sometimes available in kits for smaller, simpler needs or even Mapes awnings for commercial applications, they’re usually individually designed and manufactured to meet specific functional and aesthetic needs.

If you have young, growing trees – or you intend to plant some – you can plan shade structures to cover the space until trees have filled in.

Consider these factors:

  • What are you using it for? A patio or deck, walkway, sports or other recreation area such as a lawn or pool, restaurant or bar outdoor seating, sidewalk sale, performance or event venue – who will be using the space, and how, are important.
  • Is the structure meant to be permanent, seasonal or one-time temporary? In climates where it’s sunny year round you might want permanent shade structures. In areas with distinct seasons sun shade may be temporary, or if it’s built to even sturdier specifications the structure could work well several seasons or all year round.
  • How many years do you expect your shade structures to last?
  • Do you want your canopy to be retractable?
  • What’s the physical configuration? We usually think of shade structures as square or rectangular, but they can be L-shaped, round, even triangular, giving architects maximum leeway and opportunity to create one-of-a-kind designs.
  • Will you need accessories such as walls, windows, lighting?
  • Attached to a building or free-standing
  • Fire and building codes or other restrictions that dictate or limit size, colors, materials, etc.

An awning professional can help explore your options.
It’s a good idea to team up with an expert who has broad, successful experience working with all types of shade structures. Architects are well-schooled, but you may not be aware of all the various types of shade structures and their pros and cons.

A professional can discuss every aspect of your project, from which framing and fabric options make the most sense to specific installation requirements. And they’ll give you helpful recommendations so the shade structures you design always provide top performance, cost-effectively.