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About playground shade

Considering installing a shade structure over a playground? Make sure that you do your research.

Shade structures over playgrounds are commonplace in Australia and can be seen in schools, local parks, kindergartens and more. In many cases, shade helps enhance the quality of a child’s play experience in playgrounds. But when it comes to implementation, there are risks that must be managed and details that need to be considered to maximise the value of play and the longevity of the shade.

The main purpose of shade over outdoor play equipment is to provide UV protection for the users. Awareness programs like SunSmart endorse the increase of shade in public areas, including at public places and school grounds, although shade over playgrounds is not compulsory.

Shade structures can also protect those uncomfortable and potentially dangerous burns experienced from playground equipment exposed to the sun for long periods. These shades will also help preserve your equipment’s appearance and structural integrity.

If designed well, a shade structure won’t have any impact on the play value of the playground. In contrast, shade structures that limit the height of the playground can restrict the play experience, as well as the size of the playground.

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Working around exsisting shade at Clifton Hill Primary School

Shade sail risks that need to be managed

When installing a shade sail over a play area, a few risks will need to be managed to ensure compliance, and maximise play experience and structure longevity.

One of the common issues is the lack of clearance between the play equipment and the shade structure.

Firstly, the vertical clearance must be considered. While a certain vertical clearance is recommended in the Australian Playground Standards, there is a practical side to this. In high winds and extreme weather conditions, shade sails can move up and down up to 1 metre, meaning the shade structure can wear over time if it is too close. In addition, insufficient clearance can encourage unintended access to the shade structure. This not only poses a hazard but also makes the fabric more susceptible to vandalism. In a school scenario, out of hour access is often when vandalism occurs.

The second thing to consider is the horizontal clearance. Most play equipment includes an impact area, which must be free of objects including shade poles. Ensuring the correct placement of equipment and/or the shade structure uprights is critical for compliance and maximising the amount of play equipment.  

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Example of shade poles installed within playground impact areas

Types of shade sails

There are various types of shade sails that you can choose from, which will be determined by your clearance allowance, environment and aesthetic preference. The most common playground shade is shade sails and shade structures. While a playground can be designed to fit under both types of structures, a shade structure generally provides more playground design options.

Shade structure for Blacktown RSL

The process and order matter

If you require shade over a new playground you’re developing, it is best to design both the shade and playground together. Through this process, our team will work collaboratively with a shade contractor to find the best design and ensure a safe installation with correct clearances.

If you want to install a shade sail to an existing playground, you must have the correct clearance heights for your preferred sail. When working with a shade supplier, ensure all Australian Playgrounds Standards are complied with. Contact us if you need guidance through the process. 

Shade sails at Heathdale Christian College

Understanding the standards

It’s critical the Australian Playground Standards are adhered too. While the structural design will need to comply with the relevant building code, how the play equipment and shade interact will need to comply with the Australian Standards. The most important consideration is the clearance above and around the equipment. If you’re unsure, our team are always on hand to help you. 

How adventure+ can help

If you have any questions about a shade over playgrounds, or if you need advice on another playground topic, contact our team. We can help organise structures on your behalf as part of a whole play space project and ensure its longevity. 

Whatever your project’s setting or design specifications, you can rely on the team at adventure+ to make it work. Get in touch by phone or email today to discuss your next project.

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