Feature Article - October 2017
Find a printable version here

Add a Little Shade

Shelters, Shade Structures Mix Function & Style

By Deborah L. Vence


In terms of deciding what type of shelter or shade structure to choose for your location, you have to consider the overall setting.

"Each shelter is designed to complement the surrounding environment," Graves said. "Our in-house design team will create drawings and budget pricing by partnering with the client to realize their vision. Our engineers will determine the appropriate loads (snow, wind, seismic), calculations and foundations and stamp the drawings for your specific area."

Shelters provide protection in a practical and artistic way, too.

"This is why it's important to choose a fabric shade structure vendor with an excellent design team," Bayman said. "Our designers consider location for optimal sun blocking, surrounding amenities and obstacles for safety, and visual impact."

Lubbers said that typically these questions are addressed during the design phase of a project. And, any number of influences to a shelter design can exist, such as:

  • Architecture of surrounding structures
  • Intended use of the shelter
  • Desired "look" of the shelter
  • Other elements in the site design
  • Types of materials desired
  • Building codes
  • Local design ordinances
  • Budget
  • Sometimes it's nothing more than "I want one of those!"

Curtis said the best suggestion is to work with a local shade or shelter factory dealer representative.

"The local sales rep can make onsite visits to work with the property owner or parks manager. The rep should gather information about the build site, the need that is going to be filled and how the proposed shade or shelter will be utilized," he said.

"They can then start to take measurements, take on-site photos and gather additional information that they can then work with the manufacturer to start working toward a design that will fulfill the requirements," he said.

"The dealer reps and the manufacturers will have suggestions to what potential solutions are available," he added, "and will work toward designs that meet local building codes and safety guidelines."

Visual Appeal

Creating a visual appeal with shelters and shade structures depends on the actual project that they will be a part of. Today, shade manufacturers offer a wide variety of shapes and types to choose from—including hexagons, octagons, rectangles, bandshells and much more.

"In the situation that a shelter is being utilized as a dugout shelter at a softball or baseball park the intention is for that unit to blend in and just be part of the facility," Curtis said. "At that same ballpark, they may utilize shade structures to cover portions of the bleachers. These would also want to blend into the surrounding environment.

"You can then look at a site like a city park that has a large shelter next to the lake. This shelter was designed and intended to stand out and call attention within the park and the beautiful lakeside setting," he said. "It is intended to draw people to a space or destination to enjoy time with family and friends outdoors."

A wide variety of designs are available to enhance an outdoor space. For example, Graves' company offers an array of flexible walkway cover designs.

"Or perhaps you'd like to get creative and utilize our design and engineering teams to work with you for something more challenging and inspiring," she said. "Your vision, along with our experience and premium quality, will develop a structure that creates a visual harmony and balance with surrounding architectural elements, or stand out as an eye-catching first impression."

What's more, wiring needed for lighting and security can be concealed within the structure, instead of having exposed unsightly conduit. Steel gutters and downspouts can be color matched to frame and integrated into the design.

Structures also can be enhanced by adding handrails, column covers, custom ornamentation, integrated benches, lightning protection, electrical cutouts, windscreens or additional clearance height.

Bayman said originality is a plus because everyone wants their site to look different.

"We design using different shapes for the fabric panels, and appealing colors for both the fabrics and the metals," he said. "Some customers want the fabric shade structure to blend in, so for those we select sizes and colors that will match the surroundings harmoniously. Others want to make a stunning statement, which explains the popularity of our brighter fabric colors, such as the lime green."

The design of a shelter or shade structure must incorporate both visual and technical elements.

"The visual elements of design are necessary to create a structure that appears balanced. The technical elements of engineering ensure that the building is safe (meets the building code)," Lubbers said.

"Without both, the shelter could either be safe and ugly, or beautiful and dangerous," he added. "Blending design and engineering creates shelters with structural integrity that are easy on the eye."