Get your commercial car park shade structure right

 Jamie Howard      In

Whether for a shopping centre, office or commercial construction, car park shade structures are a must in our harsh Australian climate. In new developments and public spaces, they’re a requirement.

On top of protecting vehicles from sun and heavy rain, which can be more extreme in Queensland, car park shade structures also protect pedestrians and customers as they walk from car to building.

Before you invest in a car park shade structure, here are some of the key things you need to consider to make sure you get it right.

Dimensions of the area you want shaded

When you’re deciding on a car park shade structure, the first thing you need to determine is the size of the area you need shaded.

First, if you haven’t already, map out the area and get the dimensions of the car park. This includes distances and heights. Note that shade structures need to be wider than the area they’ll shade.

Height will be dictated by the types of vehicles using the car park. As a general rule, the lower, the better, as this provides more shade.

Custom car park shade structures can be made to any fit any size site.

Where the sun sits throughout the day

Where shade falls is dictated by the position of the sun. Because of this, it’s important that you understand the sun’s path so you can predict where your car park shade structure will cast its shadow.

The sun continually moves across the sky during the day, rising in the east and setting in the west. Therefore, your car park shade structure will cast shade in different directions at different times of day.

Here are the basic shade sail patterns:

Morning: The shadow falls in a westerly direction away from the shade structure.

Midday: The shadow will be under the object casting the shadow.

Afternoon: The shadow falls in an easterly direction away from the shade structure.

Across the seasons, the sun’s position relative to the horizon will also change. This means that in summer in Australia, the sun is more directly overhead than in winter.

Whether you need council approval

Whether or not your car park shade structure needs council approval or planning permission is a big consideration. If you don’t comply, you could be hit with fines and be forced to take it down.

In Queensland, this depends on a range of factors, such as the design, size and placement of the structure or shade sail, and your council zoning.

Generally, car park shade structures are considered domestic outbuildings (Class 10a) of either acceptable or assessable development. Make sure you check with your local council.

You may need planning permission if:

  • Your building is a listed local or state heritage site
  • Your building is in a priority development zone
  • The car park shade structure is too large
  • If the structure is sitting closer to street level than the building

Specific features of the car park shade structure

Car park shade structures and commercial shade sails come in a wide variety of designs and materials. To figure out exactly what you need, think about the climate, quality, colour and any additional features you might need.

For example, in humid climates like Brisbane and the Gold Coast, material durability is crucial. It should be waterproof, hail proof, and offer UVR protection. Plus, consider a design that captures channel breezes.

In cyclone areas, you also need to consider wind ratings. Is it engineered to meet the Wind Region Rating for your area, set out in Australian Standards AS/NZS 1170:2:2002?

When choosing the colour, be aware that dark colours absorb more UV rays, making the shade underneath cooler. Also think about when and how people will be using it. If it will be used at night, you might want to consider getting one fitted with lights.

The company you’re buying from

Choosing a quality supplier/installer with a good reputation is crucial when buying a car park shade structure. It can be a big investment and you want to get it right.

Look for a company with good online reviews. Plus check that they manufacture their shade sails to meet Australian standards to ensure the stitching and fittings are long-lasting and durable.

Also, see which product brands they use. Some of the best include:

  • Serge Ferrari
  • Rainbow Shade
  • Mehler Texnologies
  • Extreme 32
  • Gale Pacific
  • NVG Fabrics

In addition, check the lifespan and warranty of the product. A good quality car park shade structure should last for 10-30 years. 

If you’re looking to purchase a car park shade structure, get in touch with our experienced team today. We can offer you advice and provide you with a quote for a custom design, build and install it, and gain any approvals.


  • 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.