Keep Tables & Seats Cool & Comfortable

When designing parks and other spaces where people gather to sit at picnic tables and benches, it is crucial to consider comfort and safety.

Selecting and placing your site furnishings requires close attention to materials as well as orientation to ensure that seats and tabletops don't get too hot.

Q: What should we know about setting up our tables and benches to ensure they are comfortable and safe?

A: Above all else, you need to understand where the sun is coming from and position your furnishings accordingly. Whether it's a place to stop for a brief rest along a trail or a bench for watching a long sporting event, you should orient the bench so that it is exposed to as little sunlight as possible.

To do this, you need to know your directions. Sunlight comes from the south, so seat backs and tabletops that are facing south will collect the most heat, as opposed to north-facing furnishings. If some sun exposure is inevitable, try to ensure it's morning sunlight rather than the hot sun of the afternoon.

Another way to limit sun exposure is to place your furnishings in the shade beneath a tree or use artificial shading to boost comfort.

Q: What kinds of materials will stay cooler?

A: Furnishings consist of the structural base and the coating that goes over it. Technology has improved the materials used to create furnishings that are cooler and more comfortable. When it comes to coatings, a thermoplastic coating is cooler than more traditional coatings, such as PVC and powder-coated steel.

In addition, remember that the larger the surface area is, the more likely it is to heat up. Therefore, to ensure cooler furnishings, look for furnishings with a structural base featuring expanded metal or ribbed steel, both of which allow plenty of air flow to help keep the surface cool. Where a solid surface is necessary, consider placing furnishings beneath a shade canopy.



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