What is high quality shade?

A combination of natural shade and built shade gives the highest quality sun protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Almost all skin cancers in Australia are caused by getting too much UV radiation.[1]

Well-designed shade can reduce UV exposure by up to 75%.[2] By making high quality shade a priority in the design of our communities, we can positively impact heath and help reduce the rate of skin cancer in NSW.


Three key tips for designing high quality shade

Climate, comfort and reducing UV are essential to create high quality shade that people can use all year round. [3]

An illustration of a a thermometer, a sun and other weather symbols 1) Consider climate

When designing a shade structure to best suit your climate, think about heat radiated from the sun and surroundings, air temperature and movement, and humidity.

In hot and humid climates, position openings of built shade structures towards incoming breezes, use trees to shade the entrance and add eaves.

In cool and windy climates, use north-facing openings to collect the warmth from the sun. Plant deciduous plants that provide shade during warmer months and lose their leaves in winter to let the sun’s warmth in.

More information

  Want to find a tree for your shade project?

Browse Greening Our City’s tree selector tool to find the perfect species.


An illustration of a shade sail with windy rainy weather 2) Make it comfortable

Good quality and well designed shade should always be comfortable for people to use all-year round.

Including our considerations above for controlling climate in your shade design is key to comfort.

Built shade structures such as awnings, waterproof sails and pergolas are great at providing protection from rain and wind.

They can also provide relief from the heat of the sun. This is particularly important in the design of playgrounds. Children are vulnerable to heat stress as they are not able to control their body temperature as well as adults.

Shade has been shown to reduce surface temperature by 20C in playgrounds, keeping both adults and children happy and comfortable even on warmer days.[4]


An illustration of a shade sail with a hot sun in the sky 3) Reduce UV

Well-designed shade should provide a barrier against direct and indirect UV.

The most common method of controlling direct UV radiation is to create a shade barrier that intercepts the sun’s rays. This includes things like trees, buildings, and shade cloth.

Indirect UV radiation that is reflected off surfaces can be blocked by using barriers for side protection and by choosing surfaces that reflect less UV.

Vertical screening with plants or trellises gives side protection while still allowing breezes to flow. Rough or soft surfaces such as brick pavers and grass generally reflect less UV than hard or smooth surfaces like concrete.

More information

  What is the difference between direct and indirect UV?

Direct UV is when the path of light from the sun to your skin is in a straight line with no obstruction. Indirect UV is when the path of sunlight reaches your skin but is not direct. For example, sunlight that filters through loose tree branches or bounces off a surface like sand or cement.



  1. Armstrong BK, Kricker A. How much melanoma is caused by sun exposure? Melanoma Res 1993 Dec;3(6):395-401. 
  2. Parsons, P., Neale, R., Wolski, P. & Green, A. 1998, ‘The shady side of solar protection’, Medical Journal of Australia, 168: 327–to330.
  3. Cancer Council NSW. 2013, Guidelines to Shade, Cancer Council NSW, Sydney
  4. Pfautsch S, Rouillard S, Wujeska-Klause A, Bae A, Vu L, Manea A, Tabassum S, Staas L, Ossola A, Holmes K, Leishman M. School Microclimates.