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What You Need to Know Before Installing a Shade Structure

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Shade structures are a significant component of many commercial locations. Whether at a park, aquatic center, shopping area or other venue, a shade structure installation provides visitors with a more enjoyable experience by shielding them from the sun and enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your project’s location.

If you’re an architect, you need to know some essential things before investing in shade structures for your project. This guide explains how to install a shade structure, meet building code requirements, find the best designs for your project and provide other commercial shade structure installation tips.

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Requirements for Installing Commercial Shade Structures

Before adding a shade structure to your project, familiarize yourself with the requirements for shade structures in your area. Include these permanent structures in your design planning, and you can create a space that provides visitors with comfort and encourages them to use your project for longer.

Consider these requirements for your commercial shade structure installation:

1. Sun Protection

Providing visitors to your location with adequate sun protection gives them the best experience possible. Proper ventilation with fabric shade structures allows hot air to rise, lowering the temperature by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Offering shade can also encourage visitors to spend more time at your location. When visitors feel more comfortable, they may use your facility more often.

2. Compliance With Local Building Codes

Another shade structure requirement is compliance with building codes. You may need a special building permit for shade structure installation in your municipality, depending on the nature of your project. Ensure that the shade structure manufacturer you choose engineers the structures to meet or exceed your local building code requirements. Consider these requirements:

State building requirements: Each state has different building codes that architects must meet.

Local building codes: Cities and counties may have additional requirements depending on your project’s location.

Requirements by business type: The type of project or business you are working on could also have particular standards. For example, some schools and daycares must meet accreditation requirements when they install shade structures.

3. Protection for Outdoor Equipment

Direct sun can overheat and damage equipment, seating and other exposed elements. For example, sun exposure can fade or age some metal or wood equipment, causing it to wear more quickly. Including shade structures over these elements can prolong their life span.

If your project is for a school or daycare playground, hot playground equipment can hurt children as they play. Metal seating, tables and more can also become overheated and painful to touch. Shade structures reduce this discomfort by blocking the sun’s rays and cooling off the area beneath.

4. Aesthetic Value

Design and aesthetic appeal matter. Your project can bring unique value to a company’s commercial location, enhancing its brand or complementing existing architecture or design features. Allow your inspiration to carry you through every aspect of your architectural project with custom shade structures designed to suit your needs.

How to Determine Where to Install Shade Sails

Shade structures installed strategically on your project site can maximize the benefit to visitors and help you maintain your project’s aesthetic. Consider these factors when determining the best location for your commercial shade structure installation:

1. Greatest Sun Exposure

Consider sun exposure at your project and how it changes throughout the day. Since the sun moves across the sky throughout the day, the amount of shade in any given area changes from morning to evening. Understanding sun exposure helps you determine where a shade structure would benefit visitors most.

Consider what time of day visitors spend the most time in specific locations. Parking lot shade is helpful throughout the day, but certain areas might need extra shade because visitors use them more when the sun is higher.

2. Visitor Preference

Where do your site’s visitors spend most of their time? Would they spend more time in another area if there was additional shade? The most highly traveled places in your location are good options for shade structure installation. These areas may include play spaces, entryways, parking lots, bleachers, picnic tables and other places where pedestrians gather.

Shade also attracts more visitors to a specific location, so consider where you want visitors to go. Adding shade near a concession stand, site map or outdoor dining area encourages people to use those spaces even when the sun is hot.

3. Available Space

Building codes and design preferences also determine the available space for your commercial shade structure installation. You want to ensure your structure is effective without detracting from the location’s aesthetic value or taking space from other amenities. Local building permits might also limit where you can install your shade structures.

For example, shade sails are supported by recessed columns, making these shade structures an excellent option to avoid obstructing the space below. This design allows businesses to maximize space and install seating, tables, benches or other furnishings comfortably within the shade.

4. Design Choice

Design and functionality work together to inform where to install shade structures. The location of your shade structures can be one more way to enhance your site’s overall aesthetic and design.

For example, shade structures shaped in such a way as to frame an area you want to highlight — such as the entrance to a building, garden or ticket area — can draw visitors’ eyes to that spot. You can also use a shade structure’s color and shape to focus on specific areas.

5 Things to Know About Commercial Shade Structures

A commercial shade structure installation can add tremendous value to any commercial location. However, these permanent structures for businesses bring unique considerations. Before you invest in shade structures for your project, it’s essential to understand several aspects of the process. Here are the top things architects need to know about how to install a shade structure at a commercial location:

1. Shade Structures Need a Strong Foundation

Commercial shade structures are permanently attached to the location site, offering a long-lasting solution to a business’s shade needs. While determining where to install your shade structures, consider the space you will need to anchor them securely. Different shade types require different anchoring methods. Most shade structures have sturdy steel columns that can withstand strong winds, but proper installation is critical.

Installation requires the help of an engineering team, as the project must meet building code requirements. A shade structure installation typically follows these steps:

  • Evaluation and permitting
  • Excavation and site preparation
  • Material manufacturing and delivery
  • Column and footer installation
  • Support frame and shade fabric installation
  • Quality inspection and cleanup

Professional installation teams use embedded or base plate support posts to keep your shade structures upright and secure. Remember that you may need to pour additional walkways or landscape an area differently to accommodate your chosen shade structures. Some permanent shade structure installations can also be disassembled and removed if you want more versatility.

In the long run, investing in a professional installation helps your shade structure last.

2. Following Building Codes Is Vital

Following local and state building regulations is essential for commercial shade structure installation. Failing to comply with these standards can result in fines or other legal penalties. Some building codes, like California’s Division of the State Architect requirements, are stringent. Familiarize yourself with legal requirements ahead of time to ensure your installation meets the standards.

Meeting relevant building codes might be easier when you work with a shade structure developer who can create custom designs to fit your design specifications. It can be helpful to partner with experienced professionals who understand your requirements and can engineer shade structures to meet them.

3. Lead Times Can Make or Break a Project

As an architect, you understand the pressure of project deadlines. Your client may want shade structures installed before the hotter months of summer to offer visitors a more comfortable experience. Or you might have other location opening dates to consider when planning your project’s deadline. Lead times impact whether you can finish your project successfully, as they determine how quickly you can complete installation.

The manufacturer lead times determine how quickly they can design, engineer, manufacture and ship your shade structures to you. Consider how your manufacturer communicates with you as well. Having clarity is essential for you to meet your project deadline successfully.

4. Not All Shade Structures Are Created Equal

Before you invest in shade structures, determine your top needs and requirements. All shade structures are different, so it is best to do thorough research and look for the best choice on the market. Consider the following factors when making your decision:

Shade structure construction: If strength and durability are essential for your project because your area experiences high winds, you may want to consider shade structures with proven sturdy construction.

Material and design: Shade structure materials vary, and some are better at increasing the airflow beneath than others. Fabric shade structures improve air circulation more effectively than wood or metal structures, providing visitors with a cooler experience. Customizable shade structure colors can also help brand your project and make the location stand out.

The size of the area to cover: Some shade structures only come in pre-made sizes and shapes. While these structures may work for specific projects, others demand more flexibility. Your design might also require custom engineering. When you need custom shade structures to fit your location, search for a shade structure manufacturer with years of experience in cutting-edge design and manufacturing. A design/build firm can help you bring your unique vision to life.

5. Maintenance Is Beneficial

A shade structure’s fabric can last for years, although its longevity depends somewhat on the material. For example, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is a popular shade fabric material that offers excellent resilience. HDPE provides up to 95% shade, around 60% to 70% water runoff and lasts up to 12 years. This fabric works hard. So do fire-rated and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fabrics.

However, proper maintenance is also essential. Fabrics like HDPE require little maintenance, but an occasional cleaning with water and a light detergent keeps shade structures in top condition. Consider the maintenance requirements of your fabric options and any warranties the manufacturer includes to determine which shade fabric suits your project.

Types of Shade Structures to Consider

One of the most important aspects is the style of shade structure you plan to use. Architects and landscape architects have many types of shade structures to consider. Many factors go into this decision, including aesthetic needs and available space.

Here are a few of the most common types of shade structures to give you some ideas as you plan your shade structure installation:

1. Shade Sails

Commercial shade sails are among the top shade structure designs, providing innovative design to any commercial venue. With three-pointfour-point and five-point variations, this shade structure offers excellent versatility. You can install one large sail right where you need it or overlap multiple shade sails in a pattern to provide maximum sun protection or achieve a specific effect.

You can also customize the height of shade sail columns and fabric attachment points to achieve an elegant look and your desired shade coverage. These structures also allow plenty of space beneath, giving you many design options for your venue. Shade sails maintain the open space ideal for pools, play areas, building entrances and other open-air locations.

2. Cantilever

Cantilever shade structures are supported on one side by one or two columns and horizontal supports. This design allows more room beneath the structure since fewer vertical supports are needed. Cantilever structures give you greater flexibility in areas that need unobstructed space below, such as over bleachers or other seating areas, walkways, bus stops or parking lots.

Cantilever structures provide even more design options than shade sails. This shade structure lends itself to sculptural roof shapes and twisted shade fabrics. For example, the Aquarius cantilever structure includes a curved roof, while the Hip T-Cantilever features a simpler design with generous shade coverage. Single-post cantilever structures create a unique minimalist design, like the cantilever disc or single post pyramid.

3. Curbside Shade Structures

While most shade structure types are pretty versatile, you might find some better suited to your project than others. With the rise in contactless shopping, many retailers and other commercial locations have invested in curbside pickup shade structures. These structures provide convenient sun shelter for staff members and customers.

Curbside shade structures allow customers to remain cool on sweltering days while in their vehicles as staff members bring their orders. Curbside shade structures are customizable and help maintain your brand’s colors and aesthetics.

Several types of shade structures can work in a curbside shade structure installation, including:

Tri-truss cantilever: This cantilever structure is large enough to accommodate customer vehicles beneath. The double-wide or joined versions of the tri-truss cantilever can also provide adequate shade for multiple cars in a parking lot.

Arch-truss: The arch-truss shade structure features a curved roof and columns to one side. This design easily allows cars to pass through or park in the shade beneath. The arch-truss also comes in joined and double-wide varieties.

Slanted cantilever wing framed: This shade structure’s roof slopes from front to back, providing a unique shape and giving plenty of shade to staff and customers. Select the joined or double-wide versions from the slanted cantilever wing-framed structure for even more shade.

Whichever shade structure you choose for your project’s curbside pickup area, you’ll want to provide plenty of shade to everyone who needs it.

4. School Shade Structures

Playgrounds, daycares, schools and other childcare centers might need special shade structure design. Many schools must meet a minimum shade requirement for their accreditation, while others are looking for ways to make social distancing easier while outside. Shade structures for schools are excellent solutions.

Shade is essential for playgrounds and other outdoor learning areas, especially in regions with high sun exposure. Students need adequate protection while enjoying the outdoors during recess, physical education and afterschool activities. Here are some of the benefits shade structures provide schools:

Sun protection while kids play: Children attending daycare or preschool may be too young to recognize when they are overheated. Protect little hands and give parents peace of mind with shade structures for daycares and early childhood centers.

Versatile shade for older kids: Middle and high school-aged students likely spend less time on the playground, but there are several places on school property where shade is beneficial — like outdoor cafeterias, walkways and bleachers. Make these areas more comfortable and modern with shade structures for high schools and middle schools.

Marketing appeal for prospective students: Colleges and universities regularly seek ways to stand out for potential applicants. Shade structures for universities are an excellent addition. Including shade increases the usability of a college’s outdoor space and creates a one-of-a-kind visual aesthetic.

Relief from the heat at trade schools: shade structure for trade schools protects students from harmful UV rays in outdoor educational spaces and sets the school apart. Trade and commercial schools can also use shade structures over areas where people already gather or to increase usable space.

5. Water Treatment Facility Shade Structures

If your project is for an industrial facility, shade structures can provide essential shade that protects equipment and ensures compliance with regulations. For example, municipalities and local governments often require shade at water treatment facilities to keep equipment in good working order and maintain water quality.

Excessive sun exposure can damage water and wastewater treatment equipment like tanks, pumps and storage facilities. The sun’s rays can also evaporate water within the tanks, resulting in inefficient operation and an imbalance in the treatment chemical level. Shade structures provide the essential shade for this valuable operation.

Contact USA SHADE Today for Architectural Assistance

When commercial shade structure installation factors into your architectural design plans, contact USA SHADE. With nearly three decades of industry experience, USA SHADE is the leader in shade structure design, manufacturing and technology. Our commitment to innovation, quality and durability inspires us to provide clients with cutting-edge structures and outstanding service.

Architects can benefit from working with our in-house architects specialist group, who have the experience and vision to help you deliver a design that will make your mark. You can find resources to help make your project a success in our Architectural Studio, where you can also access expert support and service.

To learn more, contact USA SHADE today for everything under the sun.