Feature Article - October 2008
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A Shady Place

Shelters to Suit Your Facility

By Kelli Anderson



Turning to the Dark Side

It is no secret that in the past five to 10 years shade structures have come into their own. Whereas landscape architects once created their designs for a tanning-crazed public, today's designer is thinking about shade wherever people line up, sit down, swim or stand.

"Shade is being incorporated more and more in every facet," said Mark Hatchel, vice president and senior park planner with Kimley-Horn & Associates of Irving, Texas. "Before it was about creating sunning berms—we never created shade except for picnic areas. But there has been a big shift from virtually no shade to lots of shade."

With a public now very aware of the dangers of UV radiation, shade structures have become the first weapon in the line of defense against skin cancer. According to a recent study by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), one out of every five children in the U.S. will grow up to have some kind of skin cancer. Meanwhile skin cancer in young adults and adolescents is experiencing a dramatic increase, as are related UV-caused instances of cataracts, eye damage and weakening of the immune system.

As a result of such alarming statistics, an educated public now expects and appreciates shade provided wherever possible. Gone are the days when sitting for hours to watch children play soccer games, baseball or tennis under the glare of a hot summer sun was considered acceptable.

"A theme we are seeing is recreation facilities wanting shade for dugouts and bleachers," said Billie Wood, a member of the shade structure industry. "Many companies in the industry have responded to this by making a cantilever type of structure with poles on one side so it does not take away from the players' and fans' viewing area."

Providing shade over play and gathering areas is also just good business. With sunscreens and hats unable to offer adequate protection, children and their parents who currently avoid outdoor activity during the hottest (read: most harmful) times of the day will be more likely to participate at those locations they know will offer a more comfortable and safe environment. Aquatic spaces, seating areas, concessions, eating areas or areas where people must wait in line are prime locations and opportunities to ingratiate a shade-seeking public.

Forward-thinking Sarasota County, Fla., discovered that in fact no shady deed goes unrewarded. Taking the plunge, the city installed innovated shade structure prototypes in play areas that attracted the attention of the AAD and ultimately garnered the Academy's prestigious Gold Triangle Award.

States such as Nevada, with one of the highest rates of melanoma in the nation, are also thinking ahead. Throughout the state's recreational areas including swimming pools, beaches, golf courses, stadiums and schools, a unique UV Warning Signal is being installed to alert the public to periods of dangerous UV exposure. This system's UV sensors use a series of colored lights mounted on a pole or wall that correlate to the UV Index as defined by the World Health Organization. Originally developed by the Skin Cancer Awareness Foundation (SCAF) to respond to the increasing dangers of UV radiation, proceeds from each sale of the system help to support SCAF's award-winning children's programs like Sun Smart Kids Cool School Program.

For more information on the system or children's programs, visit www.kidscoolschoolprogram.org and www.skincaf.org.