A guide to planning & designing school shade structures

November 22nd, 2017 · Published to Playgrounds by Steve Lewis

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and younger children are more at risk of skin cancer caused by the harmful ultra violet rays from our harsh sunlight than any other demographic.

UVR is most intense between 10am and 3pm when children are at school. Therefore, it is mandatory for schools to provide shade protection around the schools for students and staff. In order to get the most out of school shade structures, it is important to properly plan and design these structures for optimal protection.

At Global Shade, we have been called upon to plan, design and install school shade structures all across Australia and we have worked to ensure that every structure is in line with the guide provided by the Cancer Council’s Shade Handbook.

In this article, we will provide a straightforward and easy to implement approach to planning and designing school shade structures for maximum effect. Read on to find out more.

Where the shades will be

The location of the shade structure is an important one. It is therefore necessary to first of all pinpoint the areas that will need shades. Basically, anywhere outdoors that students or staff congregate will require shade. Some of these areas include playground areas for sport activities and for eating lunch, school bus stops, pedestrian links and transition zones, swimming pools or other sport courts and canteen areas, among others.

Another important consideration when thinking about the location is the proximity of trees. The shade structures in the school should be situated away from trees so that falling branches don’t cause damage. This will also ensure that the maintenance costs caused by falling leaves and litter is reduced.

Shade structures

The type of shade structure that should be used for a school shade structure is something that should be determined by an expert. There are different shade structures to choose from including demountable shades, permanent structures, adjustable systems and shade sails, such as those we offer here at Global Shade.

Regardless of the structure you choose, there are so many things to consider including the design, wind rating and the structural stability of existing structures. If an existing structure will be used to install a shade, it should also be examined to be sure that it will not cause any future damage.

At Global Shade, when we install school shade structures, we ensure that no bolts, protruding brackets or square poles are used as this could be safety hazards for students.

Safety issues

Speaking about safety, this is an important element in planning and designing your school shade structure. Ensure that support systems do not pose safety hazards. It is a good idea to make them clearly visible and where possible, they should be padded.

Where there are vertical barriers on the shade structures, they should be designed in such a way that children do not use them for climbing. Ropes can also be tripping hazards so avoid them as much as possible.

Choosing the shade cloth

Although there are different types of school shade options, shade cloth is one of the most common, not just because they provide shelter from the sun, but also because they offer protection from UV radiation.

Darker colours with close weave have higher UV protection levels. It is important to buy good quality shade cloth because they last longer.


When planning and designing school shade structures, there are several things to consider, including the location, the type of shade structure, safety issues and the shade cloth that will be used. The guidelines for school shade structures are quite specific and it is important to make use of a shade installer that knows of and adheres to these guidelines.

Get in touch with Global Shade for your school shade structures, all of which are manufactured to meet these guidelines.

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