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An Oasis in an Island of Mountains
This Port-au-Prince project won the IFAI 2016 Outstanding Achievement Award, not because of its complexity, but because of its attention to detail.
Retractable awning systems are used to provide protection from sun and UV rays, but it has to do more than protect from the outdoor climate -- it also has to be able to withstand those elements itself.
The Caribbean nation of Haiti has a surprisingly varied climate for a country roughly the size of Massachusetts. About 75% of the island is over 700 feet above sea level and considered mountainous, with long stretches of tropical rainforest and lush valleys interspersed with oceanic and even semi-arid plains. The average daily high temperature is 88 degrees, with highs in summer topping 95 degrees. The island sees frequent storms, averaging 54 inches of rain a year, as well as hurricanes. And then there are the normal climatic concerns from the tropics -- salty air, humidity, and unrelenting sunshine.
The Port-au-Prince project was for a new home in the mountains around the city. In order for the spacious patio and living areas inside to be usable and comfortable in the hot spring and summer months, it was necessary to use an awning system for sun, UV, and glare protection. (Good awning systems can lower ambient temperatures by as much as 20 degrees.)
There were a couple of key customer requests for this project:
A single, continuous piece of fabric
An extra-tall frame
The ability to handle moderate winds (but not rain)
The fabric is a Dickson solution-dyed acrylic; because the pigment is included as part of creating the acrylic, the fabric is fade-resistant and strong enough for moderate winds of around 20 mph. The awning fabric is woven in a single, continuous piece across the width of the awning, which was critical for the awning design specifications.
The retractable awning system had a frame of powder-coated extruded aluminum, which is inherently rust-resistant even in briny or humid air. Additionally, the Siracusa frame is rated for winds up to 100 mph. A Somfy motor was included for easy management.
Most awnings are installed at a height somewhere around 7-10 feet; a 12 foot frame was slightly taller than normal, but still possible with custom manufacturing. The extra height was a requirement for the customer, to keep the patio space feeling open and spacious (rather than claustrophobic). The Siracusa normally has two posts, but because of the additional height, a third post was incorporated into the design for additional support.
The frame was custom manufactured in Europe, with the original parts manufacturer. Because of the final destination (Haiti), the parts were delivered to Mexico for assembly, and then delivered to the client. Overall, the additional manufacturing time took 12 weeks.