Creating Outdoor Spaces Come Rain or Shine

Creating Outdoor Spaces Come Rain or Shine

Thanks to advancements in weather protection solutions, schools are no longer restricted when it comes to learning spaces. Our Project Account Manager Josh Foord looks at the latest ideas to consider when designing an outdoor learning environment.

The benefits of outdoor spaces for schools have long been established however, unpredictable weather conditions can prevent schools making the most of the opportunities. A high-quality canopy or shelter can be used to create outdoor classrooms, free flow play areas into the outdoors and all-weather outside dining areas.

One way in which schools can extend their space outside is by creating sheltered areas directly outside classrooms that can be easily accessed by teachers and pupils. Modern canopies can achieve projections of up to six metres from the building without additional supporting posts. The versatility of many systems allows the shelter to conform to part of building and even be installed across elevation changes. Equipment and furniture can be placed in the sheltered areas to  create a semi-permanent learning space with options available to secure it outside of school hours. For example, discreet roller shutters can be installed that do not affect the use of the space during the day but secure the area at night.

In addition, large span canopies allow sizeable, versatile outdoor areas to be achieved with no central supports. For example, at Jo Richardson Community School in Dagenham our Tarnhow Dome Free Standing Timber Canopy was used to create a shelter in the space between three buildings that was 35 metres long and five metres high with an 11 metre span.

Furthermore, where a greater level of weather protection is required, more enclosed spaces can be created. Side and front fill panels, fabricated from safe, shatter resistant polycarbonate, can be fitted to the shelter to form a space that is usable in almost any weather.

While it is often assumed that canopies are used to provide protection against rain and snow, shelter from the sun is just as important – especially during the spring and summer months. For example, the polycarbonate roof panels used on many of our systems block in excess of 98% of harmful UV rays while still allowing plenty of diffused light through to illuminate the space. Alternatively, a waterproof shade sail can be installed to provide a stylish option for both shade and shelter from the rain. This cost-effective solution consists of commercial grade tensile fabric supported by a free-standing frame.

Finally, in an educational setting the aesthetics are particularly important to create a fun, positive and welcoming environment – especially in an early year’s school or nursery. There are a number of options available to customise the canopy or shelter. Colourful post pads not only make the area safer but also introduce a splash of colour. Coloured roof panels are also available with some canopies and can be mixed and matched to create a bright, colourful space.

The choice of materials also allows different looks to be achieved. Steel and aluminium structures can be powder coated in a specific RAL colour to match the surrounding buildings or school colours. Where a more natural finish is required, Glulam timber canopies provide a strong, sustainable and cost-effective alternative.

The diverse needs and characteristics of schools and their buildings mean that there is no one size fits all solution. Canopy specialists such as ourselves can help specifiers and contractors to select and plan the solution that is right for the application and meet any budgetary restrictions.

If you have a project you’d like us to look at, send it to or give us a call to discuss on 0800 389 9072.

In the meantime, download our brochure to view our full range of canopies and shelters:

Able Canopies Ltd. design, manufacture and install canopies and shade structures at schools, nurseries and educational settings to enable year-round Free Flow Outdoor Play and Outdoor Learning.
For more information please contact us

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