• i2o & POCCA team

5 Tips for Buying a School Canopy

Ensure you maximise the use of your school grounds

When choosing a school canopy supplier to take your learning outside all year round, choose a company who can design a shade structure that fits your exact specification. Every school is different and space is becoming a premium so a one-size-fits-all inflexible canopy design will often not meet your needs.

Ensure your school canopy is safe and can be used all year round.

Ask a supplier what safety standards their canopies adhere to and what safety features are built in, such as 100% UV protection, conforms to British wind and snow loading standards, is freestanding and has minimal legs and leg pads to protect against injury.

High quality materials are also essential, while price is a consideration polycarbonate roofs can quickly become brittle, dirty and deteriorate, they can also be dark and unbearable hot. Tensile canopy roofs are fast becoming recognised as better value for money as they are waterproof, provide shade and have a long life expectancy with little maintenance. The fabric is translucent and lets light through while ensuring all harmful UV rays are 100% filtered to protect delicate skin and eyes. The best school canopies are self-draining and have a built-in gutter system within an aluminium frame, which is strong, long-lasting and will not rust.

Decide what your main use should be

It’s important to be clear about the purpose for which the canopy is intended, and to discuss this with an experienced and specialist school canopy provider who will listen to your requirements and needs and advise on location and design to ensure your outdoor shading requirements are fully met. Many canopies are put up alongside buildings to create a free-flow from the classroom to outside and offer shade protection, they can also be outdoor covered dining spaces, parent shelters, covered walkways between buildings and simply safe covered play spaces. The government is constantly expecting schools to provide more outdoor activities and facilities and installing a canopy is a great way of doing this and utilising unused areas. Some canopies can also have additional side walls installed to provide greater shelter from the weather and effectively become a classroom extension. Also, if your school has future extension plans ensure your new canopy is of a modular design that can be relocated or extended easily.

Check to see if planning permission is required

All school canopies are considered buildings under planning law so it’s vital to check if planning permission is required. Depending on the size and location some canopies fall under the General Permitted Development Orders (Part 32 or 12). Planning permission can take up to 8 weeks so work that into your project timeline. Building regulations may also apply. The best suppliers can discuss this in detail with you and manage the whole planning process if required.

Ensure your canopy looks good in your school grounds and the children love it!

Other considerations for your new school canopy include the choice of colour and the shape of the roof. Demand flexibility, choose a supplier who has a choice of frame and roof colours which are eye-catching or suit the roof lines and surroundings of your school. Choose a roof shape that fits your needs, whether that's a circus tent peak to inspire children or a dome to fit with the building.

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