Fall in love with outdoor spaces, whatever the weather

The addition of a external canopy or shelter can help transform an open space into a flexible multi-use space while also enhancing the design of the building. Andrew Murray, MD of AUTOPA Limited discusses why you should add a canopy into your next design

In the summer months outdoor areas are packed. However, for the remainder of the year, these areas often lie dormant. With space at an ever increasing premium, a logical solution is to adapt these outdoor spaces to create a usable area, whatever the weather. An easy way to transform your outdoor spaces is through the addition of a canopy or shelter. Shelters can be manufactured to suit any size of site, and for almost every use. From entry canopies to outdoor play areas and dining areas, the possibilities are endless.

Why should you add a canopy into your next design?

1. Flexibility Flexibility is key to a canopy’s success. Although the basic structure of a canopy or shelter is always the same (legs and a roof), that is where the similarity stops. External canopies and additional structures can be designed to suit a wide range of architectural styles both traditional and contemporary. All shelters tend to fall into one of four general styles, these are:

• Lean-to Canopy The lean-to canopy is the simplest shelter design and it uses the existing building for structural support. With only two supporting legs, this style is perfect for the smaller or tighter site. Although this is a simple design, it is imperative that the existing structure is strong enough to support the additional weight

• Wall mounted Canopy Small and light, wall mounted canopies are wholly supported by the existing structure. A popular example of a wall mounted canopy is a door canopy which are designed to protect visitors opening and exiting the door from the worst of the British weather

• Free Standing Canopy A free standing canopy is the most popular and most versatile canopy style. Being free standing these canopies are able to support their own weight and therefore be located either adjacent to an existing building or separately as required • Cantilevered Canopy Anchored at one end only, a cantilevered canopy is a free standing canopy with one row of legs rather than two. This style of canopy is perfect for where space is at a premium or where the ground conditions are unsuitable for a free standing canopy. These are also ideal for nursery sites as they reduce the risk of a child tripping whilst playing in the shelter

2. Multi-use As mentioned earlier, canopies can be used for a variety of applications. Walkways can be used to join buildings together and create a sense of cohesion in a project, whereas a large free standing canopy could be used to create a covered outdoor dining area. Since the implementation of the smoking ban in 2007, the leisure industry has been leading the charge making the most of their pub gardens. Adding shelters, and in some cases heating, to pub gardens has enabled these businesses to adapt and respond to their customer’s needs. As well as the leisure industry, schools and education establishments are also reaping the benefits from installing canopies. By partially covering a play area with canopies pupils are able to make the most of their break times whatever the weather. When installing in a school area, the age of the pupils and the intended use of the structure must be aken into consideration during the design process. For example, round legs on the outside of the structure, rather than square, reduces the risk of injury should a child run into the canopy. While round legs are preferable on the outside, square legs are better suited for the side that joins onto the existing building. This allows the legs to sit flush against the building, reducing the risk of little fingers getting trapped between the structures

3. Enhance a design Lastly adding a canopy or external shelter will enhance any design. A well used outdoor area will make a building more appealing and inviting for regular building users and visitors alike. Whichever sector you are working on, it is time to reclaim our outside areas and bring them into the heart of the design.