The best shade is the 'shade that is used most often'.  Although students can be supervised to eat their lunch under any shade, at play they will choose light, warm and interesting play spaces.

Types of shade structures

Communal shade structures

Communal shade is a space where 35 students could gather comfortably in a group. They can be used for a variety of activities such as lunch eating, free play and outdoor learning.

If positioned in the 'centre' of school, the structure can become the 'communal heart' of the school and will be well used. Outdoor furniture encourages use. E.g. Bench tables and seats or simply platforms and steps.

Sun angles should be checked to ensure the position of seating is shaded from direct sun over a summer lunch hour. As these spaces are likely to be occupied (with-out personal protection) for up to an hour, use quality >94% shading materials and take care to shield the exposure to the open sky (keep the sides low and/or use nearby walls, screens and trees).

In hot, dry climates shade cloth will give cool summer shade. Programmed removal for terms 2 + 3 will allow warm winter sun into the area.

In temperate, coastal and wet climates, clear carbonate roofing will allow the warmth of the sun (while blocking ultraviolet rays) throughout the year. The waterproof cover will create a dry play-space in wet weather. In summer, coastal breezes are likely to be present for cooling.

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raised timber stage under shade fabric

The raised timber 'stage' under shade fabric 'sails' forms seating for students to use while eating their lunch. 'Diffuse' UV is successfully controlled by the shielding of adjacent buildings and planting. During the lunch hour, this shade was observed to be a popular scene for junior play. At its centre the structure achieved 95% UVR protection. This is achieved by a high performing shade cloth and the large area of centralized shade.


shade cloth pavilionsThe shade cloth 'pavilions' at a Dunedin school shelter group activities and students eating lunch. The picnic tables beneath are a popular meeting place for parents waiting to collect their children or supervising their play on the adjacent adventure play-ground. The pavilions gave good UVR protection (over 90%). The canopies are easily demountable for removal over the winter months. This strategy will prolong the life of the shade fabric.


shade pods

At a new school, classrooms open onto 9m x 9m PVC membrane shade 'pods'. For further weather control, the side facing the playground is fitted with large glazed sliding doors. This design offers very high UVR protection (97%). Situated in sub-tropical Auckland, this weather-controlled dry space can be used all year.



A pergola planted with deciduous vines creates cool summer shade at a school in the hot Hawkes Bay region. The combination of trellis and planting gives good protection from direct sun. Trellis alone is not good as the protection is proportionate to the percentage of solid material.


mature tree

A large mature tree provides natural shade for students eating lunch and playing. At its centre, it also gave good UVR protection. The old tree requires regular maintenance and monitoring.


play shed

A refurbished 70 year old traditional play shed with brightly painted murals and a stage successfully invited junior children to use it for their imaginative play. The 3-sided shed in solid materials provided deep shade (98% protection).


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Verandahs to classrooms

Narrow verandahs (1550- 2200 wide), running the length of single-level class-room blocks, are a common feature in schools. They provide covered access in wet weather and often store shoes and coats. The narrow width limits their use for group teaching and free play.

To allow space for groups of students to gather, verandahs should be over 3m wide. At this width it is important to use translucent roofing panels to transmit light and heat to the verandah space and to the neighbouring classrooms. Solid shading material could lead to increased classroom heating and lighting costs in winter.

If verandahs are to be used for extended periods (when students are not using sunscreen) it is important to shield the sky view. The verandah edge should be low and the sky screened.

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verabdah shade

In hot Hawkes Bay, this verandah was widened to 3m to create a more useful shaded space. The example also illustrates the common design fault of placing steps (natural seats for children) outside the shade, in direct sun, during the middle of the day.


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Library extension shade

Providing shaded areas for reading, adjacent to the school library, is popular with some schools. Shade over seating is provided by pergolas (with vines), shade fabric sails, and verandahs.

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Shade over courts

shade over courts

Court shade is used for eating lunch, free play and physical education classes. Junior play is less structured and therefore not impaired by support poles of sails and pavilions. In all cases the material used was shade fabric, constructed as sails or stretched over a pavilion frame. Triangular sails, although visually appealing, do not achieve good overall coverage.


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Shading around swimming pools

shade around swimming pool

There is a conflict of pool shading reducing the solar heating of the water and protecting students from extreme UVR levels, particularly during the lunchbreak. Providing pool-side shade using shade cloth is an useful compromise along with  the monitoring sunscreen application before swimming. This simple shade-cloth provides protection for spectators and classes waiting to use the pool.


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Sports and playing field shade

For active sports, personal UVR protection is most appropriate, but for passive spectators, shade protection is worthwhile. Deciduous trees placed along northern boundaries give excellent summer shade while allowing sun onto the field in the winter. Alternatively, evergreen or deciduous trees placed on the south side of a field provide shade from the high summer sun.

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Staff area shade

An outside area with shade for staff to gather for morning tea and lunch can be provided with picnic tables with large umbrellas above them. This amenity provides the opportunity for staff to 'model' adult sun-safe behaviour.

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Shade for school visitors

Caregivers, often accompanied by pre-schoolers, require a place to wait while collecting their junior school children. A centrally located communal shade with seating adjacent to play areas can be used.

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Shade over play-equipment

shade over playgroundTargeting popular play equipment such as adventure play equipment and sand-pits by either trees or shade-cloth  is a good strategy.

An 'oversized' suspended shade-cloth provides effective shade over play equipment.

In city schools low structures that easy to climb are often subject to vandalism. This can be solved by fencing the area to exclude cats and dogs and installing the shade-cloth only during school hours in the summer.

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