Thinking Outside the Frame

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Most industry outsiders think canopies and awnings haven’t evolved since they were installed on their grandparent’s house 70 years ago. Those of us in the business know better.

Canopies and awnings are continually evolving to answer today’s engineering, design and energy-conservation challenges. Here and across the country craftsmen and designers are pursuing innovative applications, experimenting with new materials and pioneering new processes.

In this blog, I will share with you some of these inspiring projects. You’ll be able to read about the latest advancements in energy conservation, cost savings, extended wear and durability, new fabrication techniques and configurations as well as bold graphics. If you know of an inspiring project, email me the details.

Maybe You Can Afford It

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Many times we hear from contractors or builders that they had a great idea for a building’s exterior design but had to abandon it because of expense.

My immediate reaction is always, why didn’t they call us first?

I may be a fourth-generation contractor, but I’m also an accountant. At Parasol Awnings, we are often able to make suggestions that make seemingly impractical projects practical.

For example, we worked with an architect on a church addition. The addition went over budget, and the contractor thought he would have to eliminate the covered drop-off aspect of the structure. With the church’s elderly population, a covered drop-off was important for safety and comfort.

The original budget for the drop-off structure was $250,000. At Parasol, we were able to create a covered drop-off and walkway for $25,000. That was 10% of the original cost.

A few years later, the church had the funds to replace the canopy structures with a permanent build.

A Tension-Look Structure Without The Stress

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Tension structures are a dream for many architects. But, the engineering requirements are a nightmare for the financial guy.

Tension structures rely on the tension of the fabric against cabling or metal framing to provide structural support. Because it uses fabric rather than brick , mortar, cement or glass, people assume that it’s cheap.
The unexpected costs come from the engineering and specifying requirements that are involved. Ensuring the structure is safe and secure before it’s built involves many man hours of specialized expertise, complex calculations and drawings.

As much as people love the idea of a tension structure, these engineering costs can be prohibitive.

I may be a fourth-generation contractor, but I’m also an accountant. At Parasol Awnings, we are often able to make suggestions that make seemingly impractical projects practical.

We’ve had a lot of success creating structures that I call “hybrid tension structures.” These structures look like tension structures but aren’t. The result is the beauty and appeal of a tension structure but without the high price tag for engineering.

The secret is stretching and fastening the fabric so tightly over a structure that it appears the fabric is in tension with the frame. In fact, the structure underneath is self supporting.

If you would like to create a tension structure, but are watching your dollars, talk to us. Maybe a hybrid is the right solution for you.

Need an awning now?

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Everyone today wants to save money. We don’t believe in cutting corners. We do believe in offering options that allow people on a really tight budget to add awnings to a home or building.

Many customers don’t realize that part of the cost of an awning is the time it takes for a salesman to go to the location, measure and review options with the customer. An additional cost is for the crew to travel to the site and install it.

For customers on a budget, Parasol offers pre-made in-stock awnings in our most popular fabrics and sizes, ready to go. You can pick it up and install it yourself at a significant savings. The workmanship on both the frame and fabric is the same excellent quality you would get from Parasol if you custom ordered it.

Another advantage is no waiting. Parasol always sets the standard on producing orders fast, three to four weeks on custom orders. With our pre-made awnings, the gratification is instant.

Awnings Are An Affordable “Plan B”

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Most retail businesses have to keep the retail experience fresh if they want to maintain customer loyalty. It’s easy for customers to grow tired with what is old and look for something that’s new and shiny.

The challenge for retailers with physical locations grows tougher as they go head to head with online stores. Last year Cyber Monday sales totaled more than $1 billion dollars and are expected to continue to increase.

The point is, if you expect a consumer to get in the car and drive to your location, you’re going to have to give them a pleasant experience when they get there. That means something attractive inside and out.

Awnings are a great, affordable way to update a retail exterior. Adding awnings over doors and shop windows can transform a dreary exterior, signaling there’s something fresh and exciting inside.

If your location already has awnings, it’s even more economical. You can change your colors and, literally, change your stripes. Keeping the awning’s frame but updating the fabric and finishing style can infuse your exterior with a new energy that will get customers’ attention.

If you’re scrambling to capture more of a shrinking marketplace, shake it up with a facelift that includes awnings.

Smoking Areas Offer a Breath of Fresh Air

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It’s not uncommon to see smokers huddled around a building’s entrance and exit. As uncomfortable as it is for the smoker, it’s worse for the person who is entering or exiting the building to have to pass through a cloud of smoke. Many companies wrestle with wanting to provide a smoke free entrance, but not wanting to make their smoking employees outcasts or break the budget.

New materials are making it cost affordable for awning manufacturers to provide comfortable, weather resistant smoking areas. Clear plastic panels on the sides of a smoking shelter let light in and protect smokers from the elements. The panels can be removed during the warmer months for better ventilation.

Safety is also a concern. Employers don’t want their employees walking into a “blind” shelter where they may not be able to see who is inside.

If your employees who smoke are hacked off about their smoking conditions, talk to your local awning company. They may have an excellent and affordable solution.

Turn Your Parking Lot Into Additional Seating

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Adding additional dining space to a restaurant isn’t cheap, but it is a great way to increase revenue. If your bar or restaurant can handle more customers with the existing bar or kitchen, consider a canopy to convert parking space into outdoor dining.

When Fresh Slices moved into this Bartlett strip mall, its rapidly growing clientele inspired the owners to expand. The owners received special permission to annex some of the parking area to create an outdoor dining area. Then they contacted Parasol for a custom awning that would be attractive and durable.

The canopy protects diners from rain and sun. A drop shade combines with the potted shrubs to provide a screen between the dining area and the parking lot.

And if you think canopies cannot make outdoor spaces upscale, check out the one we did for Spindini on Main Street in Memphis. This raised deck is covered with a secure, all-weather canopy. Drop curtains screen out late afternoon sun. Spindini’s deck is a favorite for upscale, downtown dining and special events.

Sometimes restaurants add a solarium for extra dining space, but customers are reluctant to use it in the summer months. Parasol customized this canopy for McDonald’s, to keep the in-door area cool for kids and adults.

We’ve Thrown Standing Seam Awnings a Curve

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Whether you’re in pursuit of long-lasting durability or environmental friendliness, standing seam awnings are an excellent choice.

It’s perfectly reasonable to expect your standing seam awning to last 20 to 40 years. Plus, metal awnings are non-combustible, strong and energy efficient.

Steel is 100% recyclable. The most recycled metal on earth, steel can be reused indefinitely without compromising its quality, durability, or strength.

Like an actor type-cast in a specific type of role, standing seam awnings are often pigeon-holed as the ideal awning for clean, straight lines.

At Parasol Awnings, we’re happy to shatter that stereotype with gently curving awnings. The curve in the awning mirrors the curves of the logo. It also stands out from its more linear, straight-edged neighbors.

Louvered Shades – The Sky is the Limit

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You didn’t think all awnings had to look the same, did you?

Louvered Sunshades are an attractive means to obstruct undesired sun and heat gain without sacrificing a natural flow of light into your building. While they are most commonly used as a kind of “shelf” placed above windows, louvered sunshades can also be mounted vertically in front of windows. Numerous blade shapes, blade spacing, and trim profiles allow for plenty of options to design your shades to suit your project requirements. The options are never-ending…

How’s this for year-round functionality and style? Shaded sun in the summer will keep cooling costs down, while full sun in the winter (because the sun is lower that time of year) will allow you to take advantage of every bit of sunlight. It’s a creative solution that gets the job done without forcing you to give up your sense of fashion or natural light!

Please don’t hesitate to contact us for friendly, professional advice on discovering the correct shades for you and your building at 901-368-4477.

An Architectural “Wow” Factor!

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Here’s something that will catch the eye. Aluminum sunshades are one of our newest products and we’re very pleased to be offering them. Not only are they known for their durability and functionality, they will definitely give any building an architectural “wow” factor, providing a fresh and modern look.

The primary purpose of a sunshade is to control the amount of direct sunlight through your building’s windows, so where you install them matters. Southern, eastern, and western exposures of you building will derive benefits from solar shading. The southern exposure is the easiest to shade, as the sun exposure is the greatest in that direction, which is why shading this area will provide the greatest energy savings.

Occupants, however, will appreciate any reduction in morning sun glare (eastern exposure) and afternoon sun glare (western exposure). These exposure can generate significant energy saving as well. Northern exposures do not require solar shading, but in order to foster uniformity and balance in the building’s appearance, it’s highly advisable that you include shades there as well.

Should you have any questions about which types of awnings would fit your style and needs, please don’t hesitate to call us at 901-368-4477.