As the trend for outdoor teaching in the education sector continues, installing a canopy, sheltered walkway or covered play area outside of the traditional classroom is becoming increasingly common. It’s a great way for schools, nurseries, colleges and academies to maximise the functional space around their buildings.
But in order to make sure the protective canopy or sheltered entrance meets the needs of your school, you need to make sure that it’s 100% fit for purpose. It should be bespoke to your location and tailored specifically to your building and grounds.
Checking that all site-specific calculations have been carried out, and ensuring it’s been engineered for purpose should be the first priority when looking to have a canopy installed.
Why site specific calculations are vital?
If you were going to have any kind of building extension done, you would always have a full survey carried out in order to make sure everything is suitable and that the building work can be carried out safely and reliably.
The same holds true for a canopy. Whether they are attached to a wall or freestanding, they are permanent installations and need to meet both safety and performance standards.
As such, your canopy provider should always carry out site-specific calculations with a technical surveyor. This will ensure that:
- The place you’d like the canopy fitted is suitable
- No damage will be done to the surrounding area during installation
- Your canopy will stand the test of time
- You won’t be faced with any ongoing maintenance or repair builds, to either the canopy or the area around it.
Many schools, colleges and nurseries often choose to have a cantilever canopy installed onto a wall, using the building to provide additional protection for waiting parents or outdoor dining tables.
As with any construction project, you’ll need to know that the wall you’d like the canopy to extend from is structurally sound. It needs to be strong enough to take the weight of the canopy. This is dependent on the age, position and material of the wall, as well the kind of canopy you’d like to have.
Instead of choosing a canopy and then being disappointed when it doesn’t fit, site-specific calculations will help determine where a canopy would be suitable, and whether additional supports might be required to ensure it can be installed safely.
Standing on the ground
If your canopy does need extra foundational support, or if it will be freestanding in an outdoor space away from a wall, you’ll need to make sure your canopy provider checks that the ground is suitable too.
Footings typically sit around 800 mm deep, but if the shelter needs additional support for other reasons, they could go as far as 1m into the ground. When you get that deep, there are many factors at play.
The grounds underneath a school may well be good and solid, but in many cases educational facilities are built on top of previously used land and historic landfill sites. In rural locations, schools and nurseries may be on loose ground, meaning traditional footings are unsuitable.
There are often obstructions to contend with too, particularly if the canopy will be situated close to an existing school building. By carrying out site-specific calculations, a surveyor will be able to determine where pipes, cables and tree roots lie, ensuring that the installation team can avoid them and prevent any damage or re-positioning of utility services.
One of the most important site-specification calculations that your canopy provider should carry out is an assessment of local weather – especially wind speed and annual snowfall.
A canopy needs to be able to withstand the full force of the British weather, and the impact of the elements will depend strongly on the location of the school or college. While coastal areas may get more wind and more northerly positions can expect more snow, there are other factors at play too.
In particular, requirements for a canopy should be calculated by looking at the local topography and the surrounding terrain, including how hills, valleys and the spread of urban density affect the wind. A surveyor should also check the slopes and walls of surrounding roofs and buildings, and the proposed height of the canopy, to ensure its longevity.
Asking the right questions
Most importantly, schools, colleges, nurseries and academies need to be able to ask the right questions to ensure that your canopy provider is doing the job correctly and giving you the best possible canopy for your needs.
This means asking them:
- If they will or have performed site-specific calculations (and what these will entail)
- What their findings were and how they will act upon them
- Whether their quote will accommodate specific requirements that are needed because of the site-specific calculations
- What kind of guarantee they will provide on their canopy
Any provider who manufactures and installs canopies for the education sector should be able to answer these questions without any problems, giving you answers that will ensure you’re getting a canopy that will suit your requirements.
Remember, that even if issues are identified with the site-specific calculations, almost all problems can be overcome with minor adjustments to the design, material or fitting techniques.
If you’d like a canopy for your school that’s engineered for purpose, book a free site survey with us today.