Newsletter XI - Shade Structures

Happy August! As a new school year begins, take a close look at the school playground, the football field and any other outdoor area where your children spend time. Are there any shade structures?

Seeking shade is an important part of being SunAWARE, but it is not always easy to find. We have some great ideas for using shade - but remember, personal sun protection is also important - sun protective clothing, hats, swimwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Planning for Shade

First, understand the location and time of day that shade is needed. In many cases, an area that is well shaded at midday may provide little shade by 4 pm. Decisions about the type of structure, materials and orientation should be based on a thorough understanding of the need for protection.

Second, consider the nature of the material providing shade. Solid shade structures will typically provide the best protection. In the case of fabric-based structures, we recommend selecting items with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 30 or more, like a beach tent. Natural shade from trees will typically provide less protection and may need to be augmented.

Third, shade structures should not just protect against direct UV but also against indirect UV, i.e. scattered or reflected UV. For example, add some form of side to the shade structure, e.g. locate it next to a building or a fence, or add trees or plants or a side wall. Sometimes changing orientation will help significantly, e.g. there is a 2:1 ratio in the protection factor of identical shade structures that face North versus South. Another option is to simply increase the shaded area - a rule of thumb is that you want to avoid being able to see the sky from beneath the shade structure.

We hope that this newsletter will help with ideas for effectively using shade in the future.