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Rural living: bringing the shade home

January 1st, 2012 / By: / Exteriors, Feature

Integrated shading in a New Zealand residence

Aesthetics. Unobstructed views. Structural integrity. These were just three of the issues addressed by Shade Plus Ltd to satisfy a discerning client who needed shade relief for her new, contemporary rural home located approximately 25 minutes from the central business district of Christchurch, New Zealand. Whatever its exact design, the protective sail had to guarantee afternoon shade in summer and suitably blend in with the house without sacrificing any aesthetic “flair.”

The client, an avid equestrian and animal lover, also wanted to preserve her arresting views of the Canterbury Foothills and the Southern Alps. The home, her primary residence, could be described stylistically as a vernacular, light-industrial-looking structure in a gunmetal gray that projects a sophisticated attitude. A nearby barn houses the client’s horses.

According to Barry Wybrow, president of Shade Plus, the client was “very particular about the shade throw they wanted—and when.” The client also wanted “a monochromatic color scheme that matched the color of the house. The system had to have an edgy look that complemented the house design,” states Wybrow. In addition to its beauty, the area outside of Christchurch is known for its high winds and unexpected snowfalls.

Shade Plus’s design solution? A crisp, stylishly minimal 28m2 shade sail in gunmetal gray that projects out from one end of the house over a courtyard. Using a hi-lo pattern design that suggests a bat’s wing, Shade Plus extended the sail to provide the correct shade throw and twisted the sail to create flair. By siting the support poles, also in gunmetal gray, outside the courtyard proper and mounting the sail relatively high above the ground, a bold and unobstructed outlook was created.

The shade system was also engineered for a high wind zone. To combat the site’s strong northwestern and easterly winds, strong roof fixing brackets and extra fixings were added to the initial design. Shade Plus’ design also had to allow for quick release of the shade sail in case of an unexpected snowfall. “We incorporated a ratchet fitting on the sail so it can be correctly tensioned but also dropped in a hurry if required,” explains Wybrow.

Shade Plus specializes in shade sails and shade structures and has been involved in the outdoor fabric industry for more than a decade, supplying a range of clients across New Zealand. The company designs and fabricates both residential and commercial shade sails. Most of Shade Plus’ product measures less than 50m2, due to recent changes in New Zealand building code, so the sails do not require a building consent. Employing a staff of nine during summer, the dexterous Shade Plus covers the gamut of creating new fabric structures and repairing all outdoor fabric types.

Project Specs / Rural living: how it was done

In addition to its beauty, the area outside of Christchurch is identified as a high wind zone and subject to unexpected snowfalls, thus necessitating a carefully engineered shade system to weather the site’s strong northwest and easterly winds. According to Wybrow, when Shade Plus Ltd designs fabric structures for windy sites, it adheres to three primary design principles:

  • Design the sail so its low point faces into the predominant wind direction
  • Increase the strength of the fittings
  • Reduce the size of the sails

Consequently, Shade Plus added strong roof fixing brackets and extra fixings to the initial shade sail design system. Moreover, the design had to allow for the quick release of the shade sail in the advent of an unexpected snowfall. “We incorporated a ratchet fitting on the sail so it can be correctly tensioned but also dropped in a hurry if required,” explains Wybrow

The knitted Z16 fabric (under Shadesure® in North America) is also Shade Plus’ preferred cloth due to its high tensile strength, durability and desirable color range. “We have used this fabric for over 10 years and it has performed well in our environment,” states Wybrow. “Plus, it maintains its appearance.”

Contributing editor Mason Riddle writes regularly about design. Her piece on Wilkinson Eyre Architects’ temporary basketball arena for the London 2012 Olympics appeared in the Nov/Dec issue.

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