Shade Structures: The Time is Now

by Samuel J. Armijos, AIA

A shade structure is an awning, canopy, tent or tensioned fabric structure designed to provide ultra-violet (UV) protection with a degree of visibility. Today, an increasing number of fabric structures are being designed exclusively to provide shade especially in outdoor dining areas, playgrounds and parks and places of public assembly as skin cancer is on the rise. Shade structures are made with materials designed to breathe, resist tear, and be stable under tension. These structures not only provide UV protection but, hail, wind, and water protection based on the fabric chosen.

Depending on the openness factor of the fabric which is determined by the size of the opening in the material, the amount of UV protection can vary from 70-90 percent. Shade structures can be fixed or movable. They can have graphics or projected images applied to them as well.

Shade structures can be attached to or over a window or curtain wall to reduce direct solar gain on a building. They can be free standing canopies protecting playground equipment from getting too hot and to protect automobiles from hail damage. They are used to screen mechanical and construction equipment from being seen and can help in reducing the amount of evaporation in pools and fountains. Shade structures are used in zoos and aquariums for protecting animals from harmful UV rays as well. Amusement, entertainment and theme parks use shade structures to protect performers, visitors and staff.

Everyone needs shade. Fins a spot and get some shade.


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