Where and how are canopies used?
Canopies are used for many various types of projects. Schools use them to increase their outdoor learning space, while commercial warehousing use them to protect stock and offer cover while unloading and dispatching goods. Residential care homes use them to allow residents to sit outside in the summer, enabling them to enjoy the fresh air.
Canopy structures are also ideal for creating covered walkways between two buildings, keeping people dry as they go about their business. A canopy can be installed in most places, as long as the proposed building or area is suitable.
Homeowners have been using canopy products for years. Adding value to your home, an outside canopy can be a lifestyle purchase, especially in the summer months when wanting to take shelter from the sun or have a BBQ meal with friends. More practically, people use them to protect their cars as a carport, most people who have a garage don’t actually use it for their car!
Types of canopies available
Canopy systems can be designed to any specification, but for ease and budget restraints there are many off the shelf solutions.
Cantilever systems offer improved access with no supports at the free end, ideal for loading bays or schools as there are no pillars or posts to bump into. Likewise when installed on a home they allow for free flowing movement on the garden patio and when parking the car.
The traditional lean to canopy with supporting posts has improved over the years, and is available with integral gutters and a more streamlined appearance. These were specified on many installations in the past, but with advancement in products and construction, the lean to may not always be the first choice. Maximum use of space is the main requirement of any customer and keeping the structure to a minimum is a pre-requisite.
One of the latest offerings is a system with an electric or manually controlled Louvre roof, which offers weather and shade protection when needed. The system can be opened to allow sunlight in and air to circulate through, a perfect environment for outside dining which is ideal for hotels and restaurants.
What are canopies made from?
The structure of a canopy can be made from GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic), steel, glass, polycarbonate, timber, aluminium and many other materials. More often than not it can be a combination of these that best suits the customer’s requirements. One of the most common used materials is GRP.
Composite materials have been used since man found that mud could be used to strengthen straw in constructing useful items. Since that time composite materials have played a part in technological development from bridges to satellites. The first composite material that was used in volume combining the properties of a resin and a reinforcing fibre was in the 1950s with fibre glass commonly known as GRP. From that time the composites industry as we know it was born.
There are significant environmental benefits of choosing sustainable products such as fibreglass. Fibreglass is much more sustainable than aluminium, steel or timber. The manufacture of fibreglass does not create large smoke clouds or other forms of pollution products.
GRP products will usually have a service life of more than 50 years and some suggest longevity of 100+ years, so it is a greener, more cost effective product.
Aesthetic appeal vs. functionality
Some canopies are purely installed for aesthetic reasons while others serve a more practical purpose, and functionality is the driving force behind the purchase. The question for the customer is “what do you want to achieve?” If they want a system that is fully weather proof and offers protection all year round, then many of the fabric types would be ruled out. They offer UV protection but due to the porous material, water will eventually soak through and drop on anything underneath.
For fully weather proof products, GRP has to be at the top of the list – it’s superb at keeping areas dry with many offering guttering systems for water to run away, and they are excellent at protecting from the sun.
When installing canopies consideration should be given to the Euro Codes and making sure they conform to European Standard EN1991-1-3:2003 for wind and snow loading. Businesses should provide engineer calculations and in the best interest of the customer these calculations should be site specific.