Feature Article - September 2020
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Out of the Sun

Shelters & Shade Structures Create Well-Rounded Public Spaces

By Joe Bush


Pelham added that areas with many days of sun need to consider quicker color fading, and if it's humid and rainy, rust has to be accounted for. He suggested that in such climates, clients should focus on steel thickness and finishes.

Mike Moore, national sales manager for a Dewey, Ariz.-based shelter and shade manufacturer, said that other than structure function and dimensions, budget is the most important variable.

"They'll get dimensions and the organization will look at the website and say, 'We really like this design,' and we'll shoot them a quote, and they'll say, 'Whoa, we didn't know it would cost that much,'" Moore said. "We say, 'Give us a budget, and we can find something that's going to work for you.' It might not be your ultimate design but we're going to find something that's going to be functional for what you need done."

When the client begins one of the largest projects that shade structure providers are involved in, amphitheaters, it must do additional work to help the provider. The structure is not only a shield from the sun, it reflects and amplifies sound produced on the stage.

"Typically, the acoustical part is done by the designer," said Lubbers. "They know what they want to achieve and will specify materials for the roof or backdrop or side walls. We also engineer the structure for collateral loads, so not only the loads for the building materials themselves but for lights and speakers."

Lubbers said his company asks for information regarding locations for collateral such as outlets and switches so the structure can be designed to be ready to accommodate add-ons.

More Than the Obvious

Derbecker said the simplest thing that most customers are trying to accomplish with shade structures is simply to cool a designated space.

"That's typically the first priority, followed by the look of the structure," he said. "Normally a client will define the area and application they're looking to shade, and then it's up to us to guide them to the solution they like best. Most end-users don't have a high level of familiarity with shade structures so they should be presented with multiple options based on different styles and price points."

Jones said of all the shade structure projects he's been involved with, the most unique was Margate's Sports Complex, where the provider made a custom design frame with shade canopies that wrap around three baseball field spectator areas.

So, yes, all shade structures protect those under them from the heat and rays of the sun, but those structures can be installed in places with many different purposes. They take many shapes and sizes based on the purposes, and when necessary, the structures have built-in signage for navigation and identification.

Graves said clients want a structure that is both practical and eye-catching. Her list of uses for the structures include:

>> Walkway covers and entrance canopies to direct visitors where to go through stylish wayfinding, provide shelter from the elements, connect spaces and enhance surrounding architecture.

>> Trellises to accent a walkway or seating area. They also fit easily into rooftop gathering spaces.

>> Cover for amusement rides, lines, splash pads and swimming areas.

>> Coordinating structures for athletic fields, such as dugouts, bleacher covers and concession areas.

>> Amphitheaters to create a central gathering space for community events.

>> Canopy structures over parking areas or transit facilities.

>> Structures over a playground to allow more time outdoors protected from too much direct sunlight.

>> Structures can be used for farmer's markets and other outdoor venues such as a fitness zone promoting a healthy community.

>> Fabric shade offers limitless possibilities in shape for unique shade spaces in waterparks, animal exhibits and theme parks.

"The features requested most often by customers include imaginative shapes and designs, color options and removability systems so that the canopy can be taken down easily by customer staff for the winter season or in the event of hurricane," said Bayman.