Shelter forms one of the primary needs of any human being, along with food and clothing. Shelter for human beings has been through multiple changes since the dawn of human civilization. The human shelter has come a long way from prehistoric caves to modern-day smart- buildings.
If we look into building design, there are many elements, which might seem to the common eye as of only aesthetic nature without any functional value. However, this is not always the case, because those seemingly unassuming elements are quite effective functional elements of the building itself. One prime example of such an element is the awning.
What are awnings?
Before we understand the effectiveness of awnings in building design, we should understand what those things are. An awning is also known as an overhang. They are a secondary cover that is attached to the exterior of a building. They can be attached on top of doors, windows, or simply on the external walls to form a covering.
A conventional awning is usually made up of canvases weaved from fibers like acrylic, yarns of cotton, polyester, or even vinyl laminated fabrics, which are highly stretchable. These fabrics are then installed over a frame of some sturdy materials like iron, steel, aluminum, wood, or the latest transparent polycarbonate substances. Many modern-day awnings are made up of entirely aluminum, where both the frames and sheets are metallic.
Difference between awning and canopy
Even though their primary purposes are relatively the same, yet awnings and canopies are quite different from each other. Structurally a canopy would always be supported on specific columns that are constructed as part of or as an extension of the building structure. Awnings on the other hand do not have any support of columns, rather they are supported by temporary frameworks that can be opened and attached as and when required from any part of the building.
Functionally canopy is more of a building element that forms the entrance to an enclosed space. On the other hand, awnings are more of an extension to cover a certain area from either dazzling sunshine or imminent rain or snow. Awnings often act as a protective cover from harsh weather conditions like snow, rain, winds, etc. Awnings are often used as a covering on a sidewalk or as a banner for commercial spaces.
Architectural Significance of Awnings
Awnings have been part of building design since the Egyptian era about five thousand years ago. The most famous awning of the ancient world can be deemed as the Roman Colosseum’s Velarium, which was massive and could be retracted over the spectators’ space to provide shade on a hot sunny day. However, their use in regular buildings became more prevalent during the earlier parts of the previous century.
Many are of the opinion that awnings are not a functional element of building design. They are only of use to street-side vendors to create an area of shade so that they can do business under a shelter rather than an open sky on the mercy of the weather. However, retractable awnings are of great use to the first-aid kind of protection to the building against blinding sun or a sudden downpour.
Since most of the present-day awnings are installed over doors and windows, they not only provide excellent shade to the doors and windows’ adjacent areas but also reduce the air-conditioning load largely. This is because the shade from the canvases does not allow the sun rays or heat to directly fall on the window cutout areas without compromising on the natural room illumination.
Studies related to the temperature control by the awnings have suggested that there has been a significant reduction in temperature to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit because of the awnings' shade.
Moreover, because of the immediate shade they provide, many furniture or carpet by the windows or doors are safe from untimely fading and discoloration. Therefore, concisely, awnings are a great way to control temperatures to some extent and prevent wear & tear of various interior elements.
Keeping the functional aspect aside, awnings are a great way to define the building design aesthetically. With the use of modern technology, many versatile awnings are often used as a patio space. All one needs is a screen-room just below the awning to enjoy an outdoor room practically without investing much. Such arrangements provide a fun element in the building design with the use of interchangeable spaces for the same area.
Curious about Awnings?
It is natural to get curious about awnings after such a detailed and vivid discussion. The first question that comes to everyone’s mind is whether their building can have awnings or not. To curb this curiosity, the answer to this question is that any building of any kind can have awnings. For example, the awning companies servicing New Jersey would provide not only installation but also give consultation on which type of awning would suit the building in terms of both aesthetics and functionality.
Another factor that often irks awning users is maintenance. Since awnings are primarily made up of fabrics that withstand many weather phenomena. Therefore, choosing the right and robust kind of fabric while installation itself would save an awning user a lot of effort, money, and time for frequent changing of the fabric used.
One should remember that awnings are a combination of fabric and a frame. While the frequency of maintaining fabrics is more than that of the frame, the fame should not be neglected altogether. A faulty frame can result in water accumulation over the fabric after a downpour that often results in germ and dirt accumulation in case the awning is not opened along with more damage to the fabric itself.
Special awnings are available to cover up solar panels used for warming up the indoors during the summer months. These kinds of awnings need specific maintenance so that the underlying solar panels are secured. Whatever kind of awning one uses, care must be taken so that these wonderful building elements can be used to their fullest potential.