Feature Article - October 2011
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Safe Haven

Protect Patrons & Beautify Sites With Shade & Shelters

By Rick Dandes

All-Weather, All-Year Use

While shelters and shade structures are open to the air and installed in parks, enclosures offer flexibility of use during all weather conditions as well as year-round availability. Enclosures typically incorporate some sort of climate control and lighting. They are also specifically designed to fit the facility's location and program of use.

But there are other reasons why certain types of enclosures might be your structure of choice. Retractable roof enclosures provide users with the best of both worlds, offering year-round flexibility. In the summer months, opening the roof ventilates the space naturally, and lets in the sun. Then on rainy days and in the winter, users can still enjoy natural sunlight and outdoor views under the closed roof.

Enclosures offer other possibilities, said Mark Albertine, president of a manufacturer based in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. "Besides having an operable roof, an enclosure can also include sidewalls that open partially or completely to let in even more fresh air. Depending on your project, they can open up to an exterior environment like an outdoor play area—or whatever your imagination can come up with."

For parks and recreation facilities, he continued, "an enclosure offers year-round usage, which for many of these facilities is important in terms of being able to provide a fulsome set of programs that meets the needs of all their patrons."

If you're looking to protect an aquatic facility, you should seek a pool enclosure based on the ease of maintenance and corrosion resistance. Enclosures constructed with materials such as aluminum, glass and polycarbonate stand up to moisture and chemicals far better than conventional construction, added Heather Steines, vice president of a manufacturer based in Garden Prairie, Ill.

A pool enclosure allows you to welcome the nice weather in and keep the inclement debris and weather out. Recreation and vacation facilities do not have to worry about contingency plans or loss of possible usage due to weather and other variables.

Some of the trends enclosure manufacturers are offering include LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) lighting, wifi and food preparation facilities.

"The trends largely depend on the desired use," Fred Walters of MESA Design Group said. "The longest running trend is toward flexibility. Is the enclosure intended for overnight guests, corporate functions, educational field trips or wedding receptions? All of these activities potentially occur at a specialized enclosure, however they all have very different needs."

Along with LEED/sustainability, added Michael Crowder, an official with a structure manufacturer based in Stratford, Wis., "Energy savings, daylighting, recycled content of the building materials, as well as the indoor environmental quality of facilities are now increasingly being targeted."

The marketability of a sustainable facility cannot be underestimated, Crowder said. The general public is becoming more and more attuned to all things green. Pre-engineered solutions are attractive, as most of the design, engineering, fabrication and erection of an enclosure is handled by one company, saving a significant amount of time.

If you are considering an enclosure for your facility, Albertine explained, first, identify your needs and work with an experienced firm to help you realize your vision.

Understand your available space. You might want an enclosure, but have space constraints.

Next, try to work with a design firm that understands the business of parks and recreation facilities. The company should specialize in this field. A good firm will have a strong portfolio of projects and strong client testimonials.

"Any experienced vendor," Albertine added, "will have detailed specifications of their structures, a warranty as well as third-party certification and energy studies that support the building's energy and operating cost savings. And, the firm you choose should have an experienced team of designers, engineers, skilled manufacturers and project managers who can achieve the vision and deliver a solution that meets all of the project's unique requirements."

Depending on the firm you engage, enclosures can contribute to LEED, providing a number of credits in a number of categories. Or if LEED isn't your goal but you want to build as 'green' as possible, incorporating alternative energy sources such as solar panels is also an option.