We’re Not Meeting The Grade On Shade
A study of the availability of shade in New Zealand primary schools has revealed some worrying trends and a lack of
understanding of the appropriate use of shade to protect kiwi kids, says the Cancer Society.
Victoria University of Wellington funded the school shade research undertaken by architect and Senior Lecturer,
Her findings have been interpreted into recommendations which have been published by the Health Sponsorship Council
(HSC) on the SunSmart website www.sunsmart.co.nz .
“Even though schools are better than they used to be about ensuring children wear protective clothing, hats and
sunscreen, it’s just not enough,” says SunSmart spokesperson Wendy Billingsley.
“While outdoors we receive direct UV from sunshine, there is also UV reflected from the open sky. In an open field,
about 50 percent would come from each source. Christina Mackay’s research shows that for shade to be effective it must
be made of an excellent UV barrier shading material and be placed to shade the users not only as the sun moves along the
sky, but the view of the open sky should also be restricted.”
One of the challenges architects face in New Zealand, Ms Mackay says, is that being an island nation, subject to cool
sea breezes, the UV levels may be high, but the temperature cool. People want the sun’s warmth for comfort.
Architecture in New Zealand has for more than a century followed designs imported from Australia, Britain, America and
Europe without considering the compatibility with local climate, Ms Mackay says.
“For example, verandahs were more a buffer zone between interior and landscape, a narrow linear space where a couple
might pause to contemplate the outdoors and communal outdoor space, as found in the deep porches of some traditional
Maori whare, was rare.”
Ms Mackay also notes in another study the design of inside-outdoor space which she says was never the central focus, but
usually on the edge and neglected.
“The easiest way to provide UV protection and warmth is to use a transparent material. Polycarbonate and laminated glass
provide more than 99 percent UV protection but transmit the warmth of the sun.”
While shade fabric structures tend to be less costly, this saving needs to be weighed against the amenity value of using
a translucent shading material to create a warmer and drier facility, she says.
“The challenge for architects and designers is to tune in to the local climate and the need for summer UVR protection to
heighten and refine the sensation of being outside,” Ms Mackay says.