Integrating Shade and Protection Devices into Open Spaces

Comfortable outdoor spaces are more desirable than ever. Over the past couple of years, people have been spending more time at home, connecting with nature from the relative comfort of covered balconies, patios, and pergolas. But even with pleasant views, cooling breezes, and the warmth of the sun, covered outdoor spaces can be uncomfortable. Temperature variations, glare, rain, and wind quickly create an unpleasant experience. In warmer climates, insects can be an additional a nightmare.

That’s where exterior shading solutions from North American manufacturer Draper® enter the picture. Outdoor shades provide a protective barrier, mitigating issues that cause discomfort. At the same time, exterior shades maintain the connection to the outside. Depending on the color and openness of the many fabric options, it is possible to create relatively transparent partitions. You can also create a less open effect to reduce the impact of nearby dwellings or other unsightly features.

Unlike products like screens, blinds and awnings, exterior shading systems can easily be retrofitted to existing structures, so they don’t end up looking like last-minute, awkward additions that don’t fit with the original design intent.

FlexShade® ZIP. Image Cortesia de Draper


Exterior shading systems are useful in many applications. In homes, they can be used on balconies and pergolas, forming a protected space during rain or when it’s too hot or cold to be outside. But the use of screens can be especially interesting for common spaces. Restaurants can use exterior shades create additional outdoor seating. Hotels, swimming pool areas and even public spaces also benefit from glare control, solar heat reduction, and the other advantages of outdoor shading.

Even though exterior shading systems can be easily retrofitted onto existing structures, integrating shades into semi-open spaces at the beginning of the design stage will ensure the best solution for the project is specified. The designer can select the best installation sites, taking into consideration the space needed for maintenance and the maximum and minimum dimensions required according to the option chosen. The system’s fit and function will seamlessly flow with the architecture, enhancing the design while increasing the usability of the space in all seasons of the year.

The most effective exterior shading solution for creating comfortable spaces is the FlexShade® ZIP, a type of product known generally as a “zipper” shade. It gets its description from a zipper detail on both horizontal edges of the fabric panel. The zipper detail is heat welded to the fabric and runs through a side channel on each side of the shade to keep the panel in place. The ZIP detail takes the fabric right up to (and inside) the side channels, leaving no gaps so insects can’t get through. It also prevents the fabric panel from blowing in the wind and becoming damaged. The FlexShade ZIP has undergone rigorous wind tunnel testing, ensuring it will protect users even in extreme conditions.

FlexShade® ZIP. Image Cortesia de Draper


The system is very compact and consists of a headbox (which can be square, angled and curved, with two sizes available: 3 5/8″ H (92 mm) and 5″ H (127 mm). The side channels, through which the fabric will run, are only 1 3/4″ (44 mm) wide. Panels can be manufactured up to 16′ wide x 10′ high (488 cm x 305 cm), depending on fabric selection. The FlexShade® ZIP XL is a larger version of this solution. Although the headbox is only 5” (127 mm) x 5” (127 mm), it is available up to 25’ (7.62 m) wide. A simple wall switch or remote control can be used to lower and raise the ZIP fabric panel, or it can be integrated into smart home controls.

​Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts – Vienna, Virginia | FlexShade® ZIP | Dealer: Goodwin Bros. Shades and Specialties | Photographer: Alan Wycheck – Image Cortesia de Draper


An excellent real-world example of this product’s usefulness and ability to enhance rather than detract from outdoor spaces is the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Among the park’s amenities are four covered outdoor decks, which can be rented for events such as weddings or large parties, where guests can enjoy the natural scenery. Even though the decks are covered, rain can sometimes be an issue. To get the most out of the covered decks there needed to be a way to keep out the rain while preserving essential views of the park’s beautiful natural surroundings. Draper provided several motorized FlexShade® ZIP shades. To preserve the best natural views possible, a 3% open dark fabric was chosen. As Draper points out, “The color and openness combine to provide protection from the elements while preserving views of the park setting and fitting in with the aesthetic design of the venues.”

Article by ArchDaily


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