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Feature Article - September 2016

Seeking Shelter

Innovations in Shade & Shelter Solutions

By Joe Bush


We know why we put on sunscreen and find shade on sunny days, but it's too important to forget, so before looking at the latest in shade structures for recreational spaces, let's visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. Type "skin cancer" into the search engine, and the first item on the skin cancer page is Sun Safety. To quote the CDC verbatim:

The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Follow these recommendations to help protect yourself and your family.

You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree or other shelter before you need relief from the sun.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and even if a careless person isn't afflicted with it, the sun eventually wins with discoloration, wrinkling and weakening of the skin's elasticity, causing sagging. If you want to spend time outdoors and you don't want 40-year-old skin when you are 30, or worse, cancer, you need to find spaces with shade structures.

Any shade will do— buildings, trees, a taller person—but because recreational spaces are where people gravitate when they go outdoors, it's not always possible to build around those choices. That's why it's important to consider options for providing shade, from shade sails and canopies to shelters and pavilions, when planning and designing space for recreation—whether it's a park, a playground, a pool or a sports field.

Form & Function

Shade structure and shelter manufacturers can help you bring the shade to your recreational spaces, and to differentiate from one another to win bids, those companies are making creative designs with innovative engineering and materials.

Shade structure and shelter manufacturers can help you bring the shade to your recreational spaces and those companies are making creative designs with innovative engineering and materials.

"How can I provide shade and make it blend in with either the theme of the facility or the architecture or environment, the natural surroundings?" asked Alan Bayman, president of an Ocala, Fla.-based manufacturer of shade structures. "People want to make a statement, and that's where colors come in and design elements come in. Except for customers with really strict budget concerns, we're seeing customers saying, 'Give us something different.'"

Bayman points to work his company has done for the city of Miami Beach, Fla. When Miami Beach was looking to provide shade at several city parks and a playground at South Pointe Park, appearance was crucial. The playground and park is visible from cruise ships approaching the Port of Miami. Bayman's firm used the striking sail system to cover the playground.

The sails are tensioned canopies using stainless steel hardware and one-point attachment for ease of installation and removal—all musts for use in humid, salty air in a tropical storm area. The fabric can be configured in a variety of shapes and comes in various colors. Carlos Da Cruz, projects supervisor for Miami Beach Parks and Recreation Department, said the sails are doubly valuable—beautiful and functional.

Da Cruz said that not only do shade structures protect the skin from the sun but also keep the sun from heating recreational equipment until it is unusable.

"The parents were interacting, the kids were having fun, not getting burned from the sun, or the equipment, so I saw it as a win-win situation," Da Cruz said. "As we find funding, we proceed to install these units in our playgrounds. As we build parks we want to put shade structures over them."

Bayman said his company has responded to the market's demand for new and imaginative shade structures by hiring more designers and engineers in the past couple of years. This has led to a diverse array of shade options, from sculptural and multi-tiered sail systems to canopies over single and double cantilevers, shades for bleachers and playgrounds, as well as patios and pools, umbrellas and more—all conceived to delight the eye as well as beat the heat.

"Customers can say, 'Hey, we did something nice to improve the community,' not just because now you have a cool place that's protected from the sun—you could do that with a concrete block structure," said Bayman. "They want to do it in a way people will accept it and want to add it and not say, 'What an eyesore they put in. Yeah, we got shade, the kids aren't getting sunburned, but it looks horrible.' We want to avoid that."

In addition to enhancing hardware and fabrics, today's cutting edge technology extends to custom site-specific positioning of structures, said Bayman.

"With the GPS, we can determine where the sun's position is going to be at a given geographic location based on latitude and longitude, different times of day and different times of year," Bayman said. "We can design, especially with the flexibility of multiple sails which are multi-level and multi-angle canopies, in a way so it's going to give shade most of the time.

"The worst thing is to put in a shade structure and realize whatever's under the structure is exposed to the sun 80 percent of the day. It's got to be positioned right."