Designing Shade Structures for Different Climates and Seasons

6 min read
Mar 4, 2024 8:46:09 AM

Thinking of investing in a shade structure for a school, council or recreational space and want to know more about how climate and related factors affect the design process? As experts in designing shade structures, we understand the importance of these considerations in ensuring the practicality and durability of your shade structure.

Throughout this piece, we will share our insights and expertise to explore how you can effectively shield yourself from the sun and other weather elements. This involves delving into how the climate, weather patterns, and wind dynamics in your region influence decisions regarding shade design.

Weather and Climate-Related Factors That Affect the Design of Shade Structures

Three main factors surrounding the climate and weather affect the design of shade structures for an outdoor space. We’ve listed and examined these factors below.

Climate Zones

Climate zones are areas that have distinct climates. Being aware of your climate zone helps you decide which shade options are best for your outdoor space.

The National Construction Code map gives you insights into what you can expect from the different zones in the country, which we’ve listed below.

Zone 1 – High humidity levels in summer and warm winters.

Zone 2 – Warm, humid summers and mild winters.

Zone 3 – Hot, dry summer weather and warm winters.

Zone 4 – Hot, dry summers and cool winter temperatures.

Zone 5 – Warm and temperate conditions.

Zone 6 – Mild and temperate conditions.

Zone 7 – Cool and temperate conditions.

Zone 8 – Alpine conditions.

From looking at the descriptions for each zone, you can see how some shade designs may be more appropriate than others in each area. For example, fabric shade may not be ideal if you live in a zone with high humidity levels, as the moisture would likely cause organic buildup and damage to the fabric over time.


In addition to climate, the seasons must be included in any decision you make about shade construction on your land. The Bureau of Meteorology provides information about the seasons in Australia.

There are also some general seasonal conditions for areas of the country that it helps to be aware of, which we’ve provided below.

Sydney - Average summer temperatures are 26°C, and average humidity is 65%. Average autumn temperatures are 14°C to 22°C, and conditions are mild with lower humidity levels. Winter is Sydney's coldest and wettest time of year, with average temperatures of 8°C to 17°C. In spring, the average temperature in Sydney is 11°C to 23°C, and humidity levels are lower than in summer.

Cairns and Queensland - This is a tropical region of the country that has hot summers, with average temperatures of 23°C to 31°C. This time of year is also wet, and there is potential for cyclones. The rainy season continues into autumn, with average temperatures between 21°C and 29°C. The winter in this area brings average temperatures of between 17°C and 26°C. This season has the lowest level of humidity, which is often high in this part of the country. Average spring temperatures are between 20°C and 29°C, and humidity levels begin to climb again.

Melbourne and Victoria - The weather in this area can be changeable in any season. However, the average summer temperatures are a pleasant 25°C. This season is also relatively dry in this region. Average autumn temperatures here are 10°C to 20°C, and the weather is often sunny. During the winter months, the average temperatures are a low 6°C to 14°C, and overnight frost can happen. Winter is followed by an unpredictable and often wet spring with average temperatures of 9°C to 19°C.

Adelaide - The summers in this part of Australia are warm and dry, with average maximum temperatures of 29°C. The warm and dry weather continues into autumn, with average temperatures of 12°C to 22°C. The average winter temperature in Adelaide is 8°C-16°C. Frosts are possible at this time of year, and rain is more likely. Rainfall eases in spring, and the average temperature is a pleasant 11°C to 22°C, although evenings can be cold.

PerthThis region has more sunny days than any other part of the country, and summers are hot and dry. During this season, top temperatures average a maximum of 31°C. In autumn, daytime temperatures are 13°C to 26°C on average, and evening temperatures are rarely below 10°C. Humidity levels are slightly higher at this time of year, and rain is more likely. Winter temperatures in the region are 8°C to 19°C on average, and rainstorms are common. In spring, Perth has average temperatures of 11°C to 23°C, and the weather is warm and dry.

Having this information about the Australian seasons helps you determine which sun shades and other structures you need to promote healthy and comfortable outdoor space.

For example, in Adelaide, you may find that temporary sail shades suffice as you may only need to provide UV protection and protection from heat gain during the summer months, and the winter weather may not necessitate any protection from the elements. However, in the Sydney region, permanent shade structures may be a better choice, as they offer shade from UV rays during the summer months and protection and durability during bad weather periods in the winter.

Wind regions

Wind regions are the final weather and climate concern to consider when deciding how to get high performance from a shade structure. The term “wind region” applies to the classification of areas of Australia based on wind speeds and how frequent extreme weather events are.

You can see the four wind regions indicated on this map. The regions indicate four wind speeds: Normal (up to 162 km/h), Intermediate (up to 205 km/h), Cyclonic (up to 238 km/h), and Severe Cyclonic (up to 288 km/h).

If your shade structure is being built in a cyclonic or severe cyclonic wind region, you must consider using strong and durable materials, such as steel. This may not be as important in regions with lower winds, depending on which other weather and climate conditions exist.

Design Features That Vary Depending on Climate, Season, and Wind Region

Having looked at the climate and weather concerns that impact shade structure design, their effects are also important to understand. We’ve examined the main effects in more detail.

Type of Shade Structure Used

Different types of shade structures suit certain climates, seasons, and wind regions. For example, shade sails have visual appeal and are often a good choice for providing shade in warm and dry climates. However, shade sails can be easily damaged if winds are strong or rainfall is heavy. Steel cantilever shades are often a good solution in these instances as they are stronger and more durable.

For larger areas requiring cover, court covers, or covers for play areas are ideal for providing protection in both hot summer weather and wet winter storms. These open structures also allow air to circulate, removing the need for air conditioning.

You can also customise shade structure design to take account of the climate, weather, and wind in your region.

Materials Used for the Shade Structure

Using steel or fabric structures for shade solutions is a common choice due to their versatility, aesthetic appeal, and superior UV protection. Other shade structure material options are,

  • Aluminium

  • Wood

  • Polycarbonate

We recommend steel as a material suitable for various climates and weather conditions, as it creates solid and durable structures that reduce heat and resist extreme temperatures, strong winds, and heavy rainfall.

Shape and Size of the Structure

Usually, the recommended height for shade structures is 3-4 metres or 6-metre eaves for larger structures. If your shelter is located in a region with a hot climate with extreme temperatures, it should not be too tall, as generally speaking, the higher the roof is, the less protection it provides.

Roof Shape

Opting for a curved roof is a smart move – not only does it provide great durability and weather protection, but it also looks fantastic. These roofs are designed to handle high winds by evenly spreading the pressure, reducing the risk of damage. Their curved shape also ensures water drains off efficiently, minimising the chance of leaks and water damage over time. 

Corpus Christi Steel Shade Structure COLA


Cladding and Other Protection  

In climates with high humidity, high rainfall, cold winters, and strong winds, cladding and other protective measures allow your shade structures to last longer. We use Wonderglas GC, a glass-reinforced polyester, and COLORBOND® steel, which has thermal efficient options and undergoes extensive corrosion and durability tests. COLORBOND® steel is also 100% recyclable, so it’s environmentally friendly.

Colour of the Structure

The COLORBOND® solar absorptance and reflectance values, explained here, can be found under each colour profile and indicate how effectively colours block out UV light radiation. Typically, darker shades such as black or navy blue offer superior protection. On the flip side, it's worth noting that darker colours tend to absorb more heat and fade faster compared to lighter ones. Understanding your priorities and exploring available options can help you strike a balance between UV protection, thermal performance, and the long-term maintenance requirements of your shade structure.

Making smart choices about shade structures involves understanding how climate factors impact their design. From selecting materials to considering shape and size, every decision plays a role in ensuring durability and functionality. So, whether you're battling the heat or braving the winds, harnessing your understanding of weather conditions can lead you to craft a space that's both comfortable and resilient. With the right approach, your shade structure will not only provide relief from the elements but also stand strong for years to come.

If you need help understanding how the climate and associated weather conditions affect your shade structure design choices, contact us for advice and support.

  • The National Construction Code map indicates eight climate zones.
  • Your climate zone and wind region are important considerations in your design.
  • Structure height, roof shape, cladding, & colour can be tailored to your conditions.