6 Sun Control Tips & Best Practices for Mixed-Use Buildings

The Rise of Mixed-Use Properties

Architectural sunshades and canopies are extremely popular sun-control solutions for a variety of property types and buildings, but one property type seeing a particular surge is mixed-use. Many recent development projects we’ve partnered with are mixed-use properties with retail space on the ground level and residential above the storefronts.

According to Gensler’s 2015 report “The Future of Lifestyle” which outlines top trends shaping architectural design, mixed-use properties are en vogue because they provide a scalable solution to use land intelligently, create destinations, and encourage walking and biking communities—all of which deliver a cachet that attracts residential tenants of all ages and a diverse pool of commercial renters.

According to NAIOP, the CRE Development Association, the growing demand for walkable places where residents can live, work, dine, and shop has truly ignited interest in mixed-use development, especially empty nesters who are fleeing the burden of home maintenance, lawn care, and running errands in cars. What attracts millenials, however, is that true, authentic sense of community created by mixed-use properties, according to a 2016 Constructive Dive article.

Why Sunshades & Canopies Are Ideal for Mixed-Use Buildings

As part of architectural design best practices, architects love to intermingle awnings, canopies, and sunshades on mixed-use buildings. Canopies are flatter and offer an industrial look while awnings add pop of color, dimension, and softness; sunshades offer an aesthetic element while providing a sustainable solution that blocks harsh sunlight from deteriorating the interior of a building and the need for extensive cooling energy use. A mix of all three of these sun-control solutions spices up the property by breaking up the exterior design for the eye.

Sun-Control Tips and Best Practices

  1. Top-floor residential balconies of mixed-use buildings typically use canopies for shade and protection from the elements as they are strong, solid structures. Residential balconies beneath typically don’t require this system as they will receive adequate protection from the top-floor canopy.


  2. Employ architectural sunshades to accentuate or add to a building’s aesthetic while also supporting sustainable design. Architectural sunshades prevent damage of interior furnishings and design elements and also allow heating and cooling systems to work more efficiently—and can even result in requiring a less powerful (and expensive) cooling system.


  3. Install sunshades in east and west elevations to protect the building from the strong rising and setting sunbeams.


  4. The most common place to use awnings is ground-level retail space. The awnings here are typically used for decorative reasons, and mixed with sunshades and canopies elsewhere on the building, really helps to shake things up, making it a visual feast for the eyes.


  5. Keep in mind retail signage for ground-level storefronts. Our company doesn’t just specialize in sun-control solutions, we also manufacture and install exterior signs; thus, we know firsthand how important it is to leave space for retail signs. Otherwise, tenants won’t have room for their branding, which will inevitably result in the removal of your awnings. This also deter prospective tenants from the space.


  6. Use contrasting colors. Canopies and sunshades should never be the same color as a building wall because it blends too much. Instead, these sun-control products should contrast the wall to add a pop of eye-catching color. Try to match sunshades and canopies to the window mullions instead. Sunshades, awnings, and canopies should also contrast each other to help define different retail spaces. Forest green, burgundy, and black are the most used colors as they tend to go best with popular earth-toned buildings made of natural brick or stone.

  7. For edgier designs in cityscapes, use sunshades and canopies; glass canopies can emphasize the modernity of the property even more. For more traditional-feeling buildings found in non-metro areas, use canopies and incorporate more awnings—just steer clear of sunshades which are found more commonly in modern design.  

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, architectural sunshades, canopies, and awnings are three very popular sun-control products that have different uses and benefits. Employing any of them comes down primarily three main considerations: the architect’s vision and preference, the intended look and feel—which can be driven by geographics, and budget.

One straightforward recommendation we can share if trying to keep to a tighter budget on a multi-floor mixed-use property is to strategically use sunshades and canopies. Use them sporadically to emphasize only certain aspects of a building such as a main entrance. Further, as a cost-saving measure, add sun-control solutions only to street-facing sides of buildings and forego them in courtyards or any place not easily seen by visitors and tenants. These tricks will help you stick to your budget with ease while still helping you achieve the envisioned look and feel of the property.

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