Feature Article - October 2008
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A Shady Place

Shelters to Suit Your Facility

By Kelli Anderson

Shades of Wisdom

A recent survey of municipalities around the country reveals that shade structure construction is enjoying its largest-ever slice of the expenditures pie, crowding out playgrounds to place in the top three. But this hardly comes as surprise. With shade structures being retrofitted over existing gathering spaces at such a rapid pace and becoming a must-do element in new construction, municipalities are simply responding to what the public wants and needs.

More than just protection from UV rays, however, people want their recreational environment to complement the scenery and provide attractive focal points. So whether a humble utilitarian structure simply provides shade for a portable toilet or becomes the stunning backdrop for weddings and celebrations, asking the right questions and following a few tried-and-true tips can help you get your structure right:

1. If choosing fabric structures, which is more suited to the intended function: waterproofed, coated fabric and vinyl or breathable temperature-reducing fabric?

2. Have trees been considered as part of the total shade equation? Not only are trees great for the environment but combined with man-made elements can provide the best of all design worlds.

3. Will the structure be more effective as a portable or permanent piece? Will it need to be taken down or transported to different locations?

4. Does the structure need to have adjustable components to maximize shade?

5. Have colors, materials or shapes been considered that will fit best within the context of the entire space?

6. If intended to be a focal point, will the structure be built in an easily viewed location or set against a photogenic backdrop?

7. Has the function of the structure been thoroughly communicated to the manufacturer to avoid needless oversights or miscalculations?

8. Have playground equipment interference, potential vandalism or natural challenges like high winds been considered before choosing final building materials and designs?

9. Is the space being designed for multipurpose venues to maximize the potential for renting out and raising revenue?

10. Will structure placement obscure important views for caregivers of their children or obstruct pathways?