Outdoor Area - Versatile Structures

Consider Shade in Your Project Design

 Jamie Howard      In

Failure to consider shade a critical design aspect is an all too common mistake on new builds that will end up with under-utilised areas, too hot to play in summer. This generally leads to the installation of shade as an afterthought, which is more costly to complete because the site needs to be re-mobilised, machinery brought back in to complete the works, etc.

Rubber soft fall, artificial grass, textured or coloured concrete, timber decks, and other composite surfacing materials can struggle to reflect or transfer heat and generally absorb heat leading to a surface that is hot to touch and often not very inviting to play on. Where shade is provided over the temperature of the surface and the ambient temperature within the play area are greatly reduced, leading to a more accommodating and play friendly space.

When considering your area, it is important to consider the future life of the structure, what day to day wind conditions, pollutants, contaminants, airborne debris, and vandalism potential is applicable. Mass coverage single structures are declining due to the bland appearance they provide. Though more cost-effective, generally speaking, structures designed by architects, in particular, tend to lean more toward a less uniformed or asymmetrical layout.

Advancements in fabric manufacturing, materials available, and R & D progression mean fabrics now come with longer lifespans, often around 10-15years minimum. Threads available to stitch the shade cloth panels together are also more robust than previous with some manufacturers offering lifetime warranties to match the life of the shade cloth.

Ensure you maintain a regular maintenance program including visual inspections, annual re-tensioning, and occasional repairs caught early will ensure the lifespan of your shade investment is maximised.

At this point there are only three coatings that should be considered:

  1. Hot Dip Galvanising. this is by far the most durable and hard-wearing coating, with expected lifespans from 10 to 25+ years. Appearance though is sacrificed resulting in a dull, shiny grey-silver appearance.
  2. Powdercoat. There are many variances within the powder coat products and methods available, this coating type is where the most caution should be exercised. Warranty of between 0-10 years can typically be expected for powder coating options.
  3. Pac painting. This is the most durable option for providing a balance of colour and durability with some warranty options exceeding 15 years. This is also the most costly option; however, it can be tailored to your site-specific requirements. This system can also be applied over hot-dip galvanised steelwork, negating the warranties; however, providing the most durable coloured finish available.



  • 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.