Awnings For Outdoor Shade

An awning is a secondary covering attached to the exterior of a building and is usually located above doors, windows, sidewalks, sit outs etc.. The main use of an awning is to provide shade from the sun. Awnings have been used by humans for hundreds of years. The ancient Egyptians and Syrians first used the awning and its ancient form was just a woven mat that provided shade to market stalls and homes. It was a practical device, then as it is now, though the modern awnings have seen a tremendous amount of technological developments.

Historical Use Of Shade Canopies

For the Royals of ancient times, sitting under a richly decorated awning was natural. Slaves attended on them hand and foot. It yet plays a part in religious ceremonies. After balloting and a new Pope is elected, he is seated with his fellow Cardinals in an ornate hall. All of them have miniature awnings above their heads. When the Pope elect is asked if he is willing to serve as the Pope, the moment he says ‘I accept’, the attendants retract the canopies above the heads of the other Cardinals, thus signaling that they are no longer his equals.

Awnings gained popularity in the first half of the 19th century. The awnings of that time consisted of wooden or metal posts linked to a front cross bar. A canvas sheet was spread over the structure and though functional, aesthetically it had an ungainly appearance. When the sky was overcast, the awning was rolled up against the building facade. The cover was mostly made of a canvas material which was used for tents and sails.

The advent of the steamship forced canvas mills and sail makers to search for new markets and so the awning industry was re-born. The initial designs offered an array of frames with multiple options for the fabric. With its increased popularity came the innovations. Movable frames which could be extended as the situation warranted made their appearance. The cover could be extended or retracted depending on the weather conditions. If the sun came out it could be quickly deployed and if there was a sudden storm it could be retracted. These early awnings had some drawbacks. In the retracted position, the awnings bunched up against the side of the building and and the material was subject to the weather. This caused the material to deteriorate rapidly. However these drawbacks were ironed out with the use of modern materials and designs.

Modern Developments

The system became more advanced and today the single touch of the button can extend or retract an awning. They also can be automated so that it will operate automatically and if shade is necessary, it will open and vice-versa. There are high end automated versions on which storm sensors are fitted and when the wind speed goes above the set limit, the awning is quickly retracted. These high end versions can be seen in the White House, Kremlin etc.

Awnings have always had a high practical use. It has been shown that the ambient temperature under an awning can be up to 20 degrees cooler. On hot days it an ideal place for children to play, protected from the harsh sunlight. At times a shade sail can also be used for this purpose. The accessory offered by awning manufacturers has made its use even more practical. With an add-on screen, it is possible to have a virtually bug free outdoor room. This restricts the mist and helps people enjoy their decks in the evening and nights.

Awnings For Practical Shade Solutions

Awnings have become so commonplace that most homes and many businesses have one. They mostly come in two basic models. One is operated by hand and the other operated by an electric motor. The former is a cheaper option, but the latter is easier to operate. Motorized awnings have no vertical supports but they have retractable lateral arms. This creates an unobstructed shady area. The electric motor is hidden inside the roller bar of the awning. It is easy to install and if you have basic skills it could be a ‘do it yourself’ job. There are a wide array of options to choose from in the market.

From its humble beginnings, the awning has traveled a long way, but its basic function is the same, giving us shade. Though we take it for granted, the canopy has the legacy of a rich past and it is one more household object which makes our life more comfortable.

Further Reading: