Feature Article - October 2011
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Safe Haven

Protect Patrons & Beautify Sites With Shade & Shelters

By Rick Dandes

Find Your Look

Customization may be necessary to get the look you are seeking. The ability to customize largely depends on the manufacturer and contractor you choose. Changes to the structural system will be the most costly, while changes to veneers, fixtures, and finishes can substantially alter the look of a shelter into something crafted for a particular site.

"There are many different ways you can modify a shelter," Gracie added. "The foundation and slab can be engineered to meet your particular site. For example, when building here on Miami Beach we have a high water table and often place shelters along the shore. So we request spreader footers to avoid the holes filling up with water and the expense of renting specialized equipment to dig narrow deep holes."

You may also want to select various column and roofing building materials, choose different colors, or add lighting, fans, TV and audio components, just to name a few.

Randall, of Vinton, Iowa, put it all into a bottom-line perspective: With the technology that is available, he said, the customization is endless. Companies can now make anything you want, he said. It just comes down to how much funding you have available.

There are many manufacturing companies that would be more than happy to show you multiple design options. There are numerous prefabricated designs and styles to choose from that are pre-engineered to meet local building codes and built to hold up to hurricane force winds or earthquakes. And many companies allow some custom modifications to these predesigned structures so you can get a customized look without the custom price tag.

There are cost-effective solutions out there, Randall explained. "But I would make sure before doing them that you don't give up your needs of the structure, the quality of the structure and of course the safety of the structure."

Making Cost-Effective Decisions

Cost-effectiveness is a question of program or function (use), desired aesthetic, and longevity. There are a variety of modular or "off the shelf" options in the marketplace, designed in a variety of styles. However, buildings that are cheap-looking or lack structural integrity do not foster admiration or respect and will invite abuse in a park environment.

A well-made shelter should yield cost-effective dividends in long-term use and lower maintenance costs for the investment.

Do your homework, said Sharpe, of Jekyll Island's Summer Waves. "Select a reputable vendor that will stand behind their work. Summertime elements here in the south and on our island are brutal on structures. Make sure you understand the warranty and that the vendor understands your expectations."

All good manufacturers have qualified experts on staff who are eager to work with you and help you make these decisions. When they are completed, they often offer a "wow" factor to your facility, and your guests immediately notice the improvements.

In the long run, shelters can increase park revenues. In fact, it is "often a consideration for the projects we are engaged in," Walters, of MESA Design, said. "Shelters that have a special quality and enhance places, while offering opportunities for a variety of uses are the most successful. Our research has shown that poorly designed or visually unappealing facilities are usually unsuccessful at revenue generation and actually become financial burdens to those responsible for their maintenance and upkeep."

"Our main shelters are good revenue generators," Gracie, of Miami Beach said, "because they are rented out for picnics, family reunions and weddings. Some manufacturers even offer an option that functions almost as a cabin at a campground."

As with most design disciplines, the buzzword these days is sustainability. Design and construction using local materials and manufacturing as well as recycled materials is both popular and environmentally responsible. These facilities are also opportunities for public education about conservation and our relationship with the natural environment.