Commercial Waterproof Shade Sails

Actualising Architectural Design Intent

 Jamie Howard      In ,

Versatile Structures were contracted to manufacture and install a unique curved commercial shade structure for the Moreton Bay Regional Council. The custom shade structure sports a collage of aluminium butterflies and dragonflies for Pine Rivers Park and the unique design is intended to be repurposed for multiple new playgrounds over the coming years.

Buildability on the architectural design was a challenge due to the curved, offset intent of the steel columns at substantial heights, combined with a weighty load from the swaged wire grid purposed to sustain 46 units of routed 3mm aluminium decorative butterfly panels. The elevated curved steel columns had to be measured precisely to ensure the structure is safe to carry the heavy load of the wire grid.

We were asked to assist with engineering detailing to allow buildability of the structure and rigorous testing in our fabrication facility by our expert team guaranteed the true tensile capability of the swaged wire system while maintaining a beautiful, streamlined finish.

Our team had 10 weeks to turn this eye-catching structural piece around; from ensuring buildability, to fabricating the steelwork, creating the aluminium decorative panels, digging the footing, managing the install, and doing the paint finishes.

We hope the children at Pine Rivers Park enjoy playing under the structure as much as we enjoyed building it.


Custom Shade Structure Considerations

  1. Not all shade solutions are equal, especially in Australia’s harsh climate. Custom shade structures ensure that cover is casted in the right areas, using substrates with high UV protection and quality materials that offer excellent return on your investment.
  1. With many suppliers to choose from, ensure your working with a company that has at least 10 years’ experience as it takes time to understand the technical properties of shade sail fabrics and master exclusive designs. Also look for a company that use advanced equipment like computerised fabric plotter cutters, high-power radio frequency welders and high productivity installation equipment as these produce a better result.
  1. Early collaboration between the client, design team and contractors are critical when designing custom fabric structures, as they require advanced design development, engineering, and council approval. Planning permission is needed if the shade structure will cover an area that is bigger than 10 m2 and/or reaches within 1.8 meter of a building fence line. Non-compliance is regarded as a severe offence that is met with a considerable fine and immediate compulsory removal of the structure.
  1. Ensure the warranty package cover the entire system and not just the material.


  • Versatile Structures Headshots

    Jamie Howard - Director

    Co-founder and Director Jamie has been hands-on in the shade and steel industry since leaving school. With over 15 years’ experience in shade, membrane and steel projects, Jamie is excited about the design opportunities shade structures offer in the commercial and industrial sectors. Jamie’s extensive design skills give him a competitive edge in situations with technical design complexity. He has won two personal industry awards for his designs, alongside many company-won awards.