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Two MAY Albatros Parasols on the decking of a lake restaurant

How to choose the right exterior shelter or solar shade

By: Oli Birch Category: External SolutionsInsights

Choosing the correct exterior shelter or solar shade is crucial. But there are a host of things that need to be considered when making that decision.

In summer, external structures provide the opportunity to work outside as well as socialise by reducing glare and providing shade, while the more robust options also help to protect people from the elements in winter. In a work context, employee breaks outside the office are vital, and sought after by those who have previously become accustomed to working from home. They give staff the chance to recharge and socialise, with consequent improvements in productivity.

This is especially relevant as many businesses have recently downsized because of staggered team presence at the office. Large external shelters facilitate company get-togethers and social events, reducing the cost of hiring an alternative venue.

Well-sited exterior structures shade the building too. This reduces internal glare and heat, so users do not require air conditioning as often, and therefore improves a building’s sustainability credentials.

And, if you own the site, an external canopy or solar shade can add value to your asset.

But before you consider the plethora of benefits, there is one big question to answer: Do you opt for an external shelter which provides protection against sun, rain and wind or a simpler solar shade?

MAY Schattello Parasol Rooftop Bar


Aluminium canopies are both fast to manufacture and install, and offer a low maintenance way to maximise your space. Though they’re often used in education and healthcare facilities, to provide external dining spaces or outdoor learning facilities, canopies are starting to increase in popularity in the hospitality sector.

Available as a lean-to, free-standing apex, free-standing mono-pitch or free-standing saddle, canopies are an incredibly versatile exterior shelter.


Bioclimatic pergolas bring a luxurious feel, ideal for hospitality spaces. These refined structures are equipped with premium features to provide an easily-controlled and versatile shelter. Fixed or retractable roofs can be louvred or fabric and even offer dimmable lighting.

Garden Rooms

Take the pergola to the next level with a complete garden room. These are ideal for commercial and hospitality venues, offering a waterproof, sunproof ceiling and sliding glass doors to create a whole new room adjacent to the building or built as a stand-alone facility.

In the office environment, a garden room forms an ideal outdoor meeting room or collaboration space.

Eclettica Garden Room


A retractable awning extends the protection of a blind to the external environment. This provides a range of options to shade the interior but also protects people outside the building. Non-obtrusive and easy to operate, some configurations include motion detection sensors which retract the awning automatically when the wind speed becomes hazardous. They have been used to great effect at Chiswick Park, a renowned business park in West London.

Sail Shades

Durable, sun-resistant fabrics are the key feature of sail shades. These simple and quick to install structures provide a less formal shading option, but are ideal for outdoor seating and entertainment areas in the hospitality industry. Schools, colleges and nurseries also use them to provide shade for pupils in outdoor classrooms.

Wintergarden System

Need to shade users of an outdoor cinema, lecture hall or exhibition space but don’t want a permanent structure? The answer? A Wintergarden system. This specialist awning shades 100m² from a single mechanism which retracts neatly when not in use.

No side fixings are required, and the system is available in a wide range of colours and fabric to suit many commercial, public sector or hospitality settings.

The Liberta Retractable Roof Systems in use at Alresford Golf Club's Pro-Am event


At the other end of the scale, a high quality parasol offers simple and cost-effective shading to smaller spaces. Often seen in hotels, pubs and restaurants to shade pools, sun decks, garden dining and terraces, these are also a popular choice for residential properties.


As you can see, there are a wide range of exterior shelter options available, but our experts are on hand to advise you on the best specification for every occasion. Contact us to discuss your needs.

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