Shade structures provide protection from the sun’s heat and harmful UV rays. But if you’re covering a parking lot, you’re also protecting a sizeable investment, whether it’s your inventory of cars or they belong to other individuals. Hail or rain can damage vehicles as much as sun. Sometimes more. And even if you’re located where it’s usually warm, you’re bound to get occasional weather squalls.

Office buildings, apartments or condos, malls and shopping centers and public parking can all benefit from the addition of shade. The structures needn’t be massive in weight or appearance to get the job done.

Here are five considerations if you’re thinking about shade structures.

The practicalities.
Shade structures are designed according to functional necessity. With a parking lot, driving patterns are important in determining what sort of support system will adequately hold up your structure while ensuring on-the-ground maneuverability. Do you need to cover a few cars or hundreds?

You’re probably looking at a permanent structure. But if you need something to use just seasonally or occasionally, say for periodic tent sales or special events, you’ll want to consider the time, effort and space required to put up, take down and store your system.

Parking shade structures can be made of steel, wood or lighter framing materials. You can cover a single row of cars or your entire lot. UV-resistant and water-repellant fabrics are essential, or you can choose metal roofing. There are many options, each with specific pros and cons, but virtually anything can be custom-tailored to fit your needs.

Tension structures – cable systems with membrane coverings from small sails to huge spans – can be a superior, lightweight alternative. They offer all sorts of creative design opportunities, since they can be different shapes beyond the typical square or rectangle. These shade structures definitely catch the eye. And while they look “light,” they’re certainly not flimsy.

Whether or not you’ll need lighting also affects your choices. And of course you’ll need to consult local building and fire codes. Whatever you choose, make sure water won’t accumulate and cause problems, and that it will be sturdy enough to withstand your region’s weather extremes.

Take advantage of the marketing opportunity.
Shade structures are highly visible. They can attract attention to your location as well as provide a canvas for your marketing message – your logo and special graphics as well as your name. That’s an opportunity to promote your business 24/7.