Abacus supports sustainable practices in the shade structure industry.

9 Aug 2012

Abacus Shade Structures takes its environmental responsibiltiy very seriously. Numerous opportunities have been identified where fabric structure industries can be actively involved in securing a better, cleaner future. From the micro in house level to the challenging ways international corporations are dealing with recycling and sustainability issues, each sector of the industry has an important role to play.

The realisation of the harmful effects of the sun and the fact that Australians enjoy being outdoors saw the emergence of the fabric structure industry in the 1980’s.  The availability of advanced materials allowed  the industry to grow. Caring for the future health of our environment is the challenge faced today for suppliers and fabricators of fabric structures.Sustainability in the shade structure industry is very important.

Abacus Shade Structures recognises that it has a role to support environmentally sustainable practices.  Many measures currently in place reflect a commitment by Abacus and the industry to ensuring sustainability is a key objective;

         Promoting and encouraging passive cooling and light weight building alternatives,

         Promoting sustainable policies at work eg recycling and efficiency of transport and

         Supporting wider industry measures from manufacturers committed to  sustainable green practices.

Sustainability in design

a)    PVC rooves with large surfaces are suitable for  water collection. Plumbing and water tanks can be fitted to a waterproof shade structure to collect and reuse  water,

b)    Fabrics used in shade structures today have long life spans commonly lasting ten years before replacement. Plastics manufacturers are encouraged to develop plastics which offer longer life spans.  Some plastics such as Teflon glass used in structures today have life spans of 50 years.

c)   Attention to the placement of structures in relation to seasonal sun direction and time of day gives maximum shade benefits when needed. Shadow diagrams are useful in providing this information.

d)   Locating structures adjacent to buildings will minimise heat and glare in building and can reduce reliance on air conditioners.

Positive measures supported & used.

Reducing Wastage

a)      PVC and shade cloth off cuts can be converted into small items e.g. bags, bunting.

b)      Using software to position fabric into the most economical layout for cutting.

c)      Convert  short lengths of steel posts into other products.

d)      Collect scrap steel for recycling.

      Fabricator and installer measures

a)      Transport –  newer and well maintained vehicles are more efficient, use alternate clean fuels eg LPG, use freight companies  who  efficiently move large volumes of products.

b)       Reduce reliance on air conditioners by installing opening windows in offices.

c)       In the office - practse duplex paper copying,  paper recycling and print cartridge recycling.

d)       Energy efficient lighting and switch off lighting when not needed.

e)      Recycling water with the installation of water tanks.

f)       Save electricity by installing solar panels on factory roof.

g)      Purchasing from “green friendly” suppliers.

Environmentally friendly fabrics

Plastics have excellent heat reflective and natural lighting properties.  A light weight fabric structure offers passive environmental benefits not possible from buildings made of brick, metal or glass. Natural cooling and heating leads to a reduced reliance on artificial energy eg air conditioners.  Shade  provided by a shade structure can indirectly benefit other buildings.eg an a shade structure positioned propery adjacent to a school library can cool the library in summer and allow sunlight in in winter.

Fabric structures are considered light weight buildings. Light weight buildings require less energy in their production and therefore consume less resources.  Lightweight materials such as shade cloth and PVC fabrics use less energy in their manufacture than bricks or glass to cover the same space.

Manufacturers of synthetic fabrics

From  manufacturing plastic resin chips of polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) to the production of synthetic  PVC’s, shade cloth and meshes  manufacturers are aware of the importance of environmental considerations in the entire production process.  Some interesting developments taking place include;

a)      Participation in in-house recycling and external recycling systems[1]

b)      Water based coatings on fabric to minimise CO2 ozone interference and reduce reliance on traditional chemicals.[2]

c)       Sustainable production practices eg re-using waste base products such as pastes.

d)      European PVC manufacturers now committed to sustainable production through “Vinyl 2010” and  “Vinyl Plus” . These self regulating initiatives have led to recycling of 250,000 tonnes of PVC annually with more significant targets to follow.

e)      Recycling to reduce gas emissions and transportation.

f)       Purification of waste gases to reduce co2 emissions.

g)      Recirculating and reusing thermal energy to reduce consumption of gas and electricity.

The synthetic fabric industry has a global environmental responsibility. At Abacus Shade Structures we look to a future  to find better ways of utilising our limited resources to minimise the impact on our environment and to support those in our industry that  follow sound sustainable environmental methods.  Throughout the full chain of supply from buying raw materials; how we design and fabricate at our factory; to installation methods, we have an obligation to the future health of our planet - an obligation we take seriously.


[1] Mehler Technologies- strong sustainable future Eco-Care policy,

[2] Wax Converters, Australia.


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