Feature Article - September 2020
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Out of the Sun

Shelters & Shade Structures Create Well-Rounded Public Spaces

By Joe Bush


Moore said that new park designs need a focal point structure, and a shade structure provides that. A custom-made structure serves multiple purposes by beautifying as well as protecting and providing a place to gather.

"There needs to be that congregation place," Moore said.

Moore said he is seeing that with today's desire to be outdoors mixed with the need to social distance, sales reps are guiding clients toward larger and connected shade structures. The desire for multipurpose spaces leads to larger shade structures, said Moore, not just a two- or three-picnic table structure.

He said clients want to put more people in the shade in some locations but because of the social distancing required by the coronavirus, spaces that were sufficient for many people need to be larger.

"I've gotten some calls from (sales reps) that are trying to lead schools and parks down that direction," said Moore. "'Hey, why don't you think of something bigger, something you can use as an outdoor classroom, something you can use as a connecting area, an area where people can get together but still socially distance and in a park situation they can rent it and create some revenue?' I like that direction."

Bells & Whistles

Pelham's years of experience with shade structure projects for Orlando have instilled an appreciation.

"A number of companies provide so much choice in design," said Pelham. "We don't always have the budget to custom-design shelters, so it's nice to know that we can browse through vendors' information and find something that accomplishes what we want, not only in area, but in style. We can go woodsy or we can go urban, traditional or 21st century. Bright and flashy or muted and unobtrusive."

Graves' company has an in-house design team and engineers to create custom shelters that include aesthetic needs such as steel gutters and downspouts color-matched to the frame and integrated into the design.

Lubbers said making shade structures attractive begins with design. For example, his company started a line of structures modeled after the Craftsman style of architecture, and it's also standard now for there to be no place for birds to build unsightly and unsanitary nests. Materials and methods have evolved as well, said Lubbers, to add accents.

"Laminates, translucent, semi-transparent," he said. "A center layer with an image. Colored polycarbonate on roof. Sheet steel or aluminum with patterns laser cut into them to create interesting shadows. Precast concrete bar counters. Spaces that looked like stacked rock but cast in glass fiber reinforced concrete that come in two halves that mechanically attach to the steel column so it looks like you had stone masons on site to build stone columns.

"We take into account the principles of design—repetition, balance, proportion. I like them to look good."

The structures don't need much to remain functional and attractive. Warranties cover the soundness of the materials while cleaning with mild detergent and water keep surfaces bright.

"They hang in there pretty good," said Moore of steel structures. "That's what these structures are all about. There's no sealing the wood every year, no cracks or peeling that you might get with vinyl or wood. They're kind of a put 'em up and forget 'em." RM