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Cool Shade for Cool Playgrounds
Providing Protection From the Sun

Cool Shade for Cool Playgrounds

Three custom-fabricated flowers provide shade for Greenwood Park, in Hayward, Calif. Designed by RRM Design Group, the support of the shade structure is a 17'x 8" galvanized rolled steel pipe, with a 20' flower span. Eight petals make up each flower. The flowers were designed to bring a sense of playfulness to the existing playground. They were made to be large and bright to distinguish them from the towering trees surrounding the playground, providing shade to the tables and stand-alone pieces of the play equipment. Photo credit: Carl Ferber

The slides of playgrounds have evolved, from metal slides to plastic and rubber slides. Despite the improvement of play equipment with newer materials, slides can still have a dangerous effect on kids. They can reach up to 150 degrees in the sun, resulting in 2nd or even 3rd degree burns on children. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), children two years old and younger are most at risk on playground equipment because their skin is more delicate, and therefore more susceptible to burn.

Shade Protection
There is one thing that has helped to alleviate this issue: the addition of shade. Shade has become a great tool to reduce ultraviolet exposure and heat gain on equipment. Park administrators and designers are moving towards shading the entire area; however, budgets oftentimes present limitations.

Many companies have established to focus on the shade structures surrounding playground equipment, thereby easing the burning issue. LASN's advertisers provide structures in a variety of fabrics, colors and styles to improve the children's experiences on the playground.

While the options for shades are practically endless, there are specific codes and regulations that apply towards shade safety in all playgrounds. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) have established the safety standards and requirements for shade systems that are integrated into the play equipment.

There must be an 84" gap between the play surface and the lowest part of the shade structure. This is set to minimize adventurous children from climbing on the wrong objects. The fabrics are required to be lead and phthalate free and must meet the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire codes. With regards to design criteria, steel components must not have any areas where a kid's limbs can get trapped. In order to prevent dangers such as strings on hoodies getting caught on hardware, safety hardware must have rounded, exposed ends.

Cool Shade for Cool Playgrounds

BCI Burke Company designed Embrace Park in Norfolk, Neb. The Ara Shade System, named after the constellation in the heart of the Milky Way, is made of polyethylene knitted fabric with woven polyester webbing and vinyl reinforcements. The shade structure shades 75% of the playground, blocks up to 97% of the ultraviolet radiation and is designed to withstand up to 90 mph winds.

Cool Shade for Cool Playgrounds

This "carousel" shade structure, designed by Shade Systems, Inc., is located in Flowood, Miss. The shade's highest point is about 20.' Its colors were chosen to blend with the natural surroundings.

Choosing the right fabric depends on the design criteria, cost budget and quality of the product. Some manufacturers utilize non-porous fabric (often used for awnings) because they can be of low cost and simple to fabricate to fit a steel frame. However, some non-porous fabrics have a shorter life span and are not as effective at cooling.

High-density polyethylene, or HDPE, is the most commonly used shade material and the demand for this knitted fabric seems to be increasing, according to Mike Taranto of Solar Shade USA, LLC. HDPE is known for its effectiveness, because it can allow airflow through the fabric. The temperature beneath the shade is also lowered because the material is porous; the heat passes through the fabric, keeping the play equipment cooler. In addition, shade systems that are made of HDPE can last up to 20 years, minimizing maintenance and repair costs.

The weight of the fabric largely depends on design criteria. A stronger fabric is needed for areas with high wind codes or snow loads, whereas regions with less natural activity can make do with a lighter material. According to Taranto, an engineering analysis can guide a fabricator to the suitable fabric for the design and location.

Structure Styles
The selections for the type of structure are unique and abundant. The styles of shade structures chosen should depend on factors such as wind and cost. Flat shade panels are not very useful in windy conditions. Square and rectangular shade systems can provide the most advantageous solution when it comes to saving costs. Although triangle shade sails are flat and tend to move around a great deal in the wind, adding an attachment by applying a fourth node will bring about more stability. These shades are also relatively cost efficient and popular. Some companies provide as many as 30 styles with varying sizes, including squares, umbrellas, bleacher covers and shade sails.

All in all, shade systems can be customized in many shapes, sizes, colors and designs to enhance the playground experience. The fabric and structure style are crucial factors when determining the design and cost of a shade on the playground. Shade also serves as a more important function, protecting playgoers from the harmful rays of the sun while they are trying to have fun.

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May 19, 2019, 2:21 am PDT

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