Title:
System for shading playground structures
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
It is desirable to protect playground structures from direct exposure to sunlight. The present invention relates to a system and method for providing shade for playground structures to provide such protection. Playground structures include columns used to support the playground structure. A shade fixture can be made comprising shade material over supporting structural members, including at least one column. Such a shade fixture can be secured to a playground structure by attaching the column of the shade fixture to multiple columns of the playground structure. It may be desirable to have the length of a shade fixture column be variable to account for variable playground structure column heights. The one column creates a bridge between columns. The columns can be adjacent to each other or at a distance. The bridge creates a more rigid structure and supports the weight of the shade material.



Inventors:
Haymann, Gary (Dallas, TX, US)
Pena, Felipe (South Lake, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/288895
Publication Date:
05/31/2007
Filing Date:
11/29/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/83
International Classes:
E04H15/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HAWK, NOAH CHANDLER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARSTENS & CAHOON, LLP (DALLAS, TX, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A shade structure for playground equipment having a plurality of substantially vertical supports, wherein said shade structure comprises: (a) at least two canopy columns coupled to at least one primary support; (b) a plurality of secondary supports coupled to at least one primary support; and (c) a canopy coupled to the plurality of secondary supports.

2. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the at least one primary support further comprises a plurality of stringers for greater rigidity.

3. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the secondary supports comprise a truss.

4. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy is opaque.

5. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy is porous.

6. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy is non-porous.

7. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy is opaque to UV-light.

8. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy is larger than the playground equipment.

9. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy provides shade to a portion of the playground equipment.

10. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy columns further comprise length adjustment means.

11. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy columns are coupled to the vertical supports of the playground equipment.

12. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy columns space the canopy at least six feet above the playground equipment.

13. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy columns has an inner diameter substantially equal to the outer diameter of the vertical columns so that the canopy columns provide a slip fit over the vertical columns.

14. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy columns are coupled to the vertical columns with at least one bolt.

15. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy columns are coupled to the vertical columns with a bracket.

16. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy is substantially horizontal.

17. The shade structure of claim 1 wherein the canopy is substantially parallel to the playground equipment.

18. The shade structure of claim 10 wherein the canopy columns are coupled to the vertical supports so that the support beam is substantially horizontal.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates to park and playground equipment, and more particularly a system and method for providing shade for existing and new playground structures.

2. Description of Related Art

A playground is an area designed for children to engage in physical activity. Modern playgrounds often have recreational equipment such as the see-saw, merry-go-round, swingset, slide, climber, walking bridge, jungle gym, chin-up bars, sandbox, parallel bars, overhead ladder, trapeze and trapeze rings, playhouses, and a maze, many of which help children develop physical coordination, strength, and flexibility, as well as providing recreation and enjoyment. Common in modem playgrounds are “playground structures” that incorporate many different pieces of equipment. An exemplary playground structure 101 is depicted in FIG. 1.

Significant problems with existing playground structures, however, arise from such structures' exposure to sunlight. For example, direct exposure of playground structures to sunlight can significantly increase the temperature of the recreational equipment comprising such structures. Yet cooler equipment is more functional for use by children. Indeed, in many climates, sunlight can render non-shaded playground structures essentially unusable for substantial periods of time during the year-because it is too hot to use. Direct exposure of playground structures to sunlight also decreases the useful life of such structures. Finally, direct exposure of playground structures to sunlight also increases children's exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation while using such structures.

Existing solutions to the above-described problems involve placing a shade structure over an entire playground area. Such a shade structure is depicted in FIG. 2. Here, playground structure 201 is covered by shade structure 205. Shade structure 205 is supported by shade structure columns 210, 215, 220, 225, 230, 235. Though this method of shading playground structures is an adequate protection against direct exposure to sunlight and its attendant problems, it has its own disadvantages, namely: It requires much more land area than when the playground structure is left unshaded. Also, it creates additional hazards, in the form of rigid shade structure columns 210, 215, 220, 225, 230, 235 used to elevate the shading structure. Clearly, said colmns are an additional playground hazard by which children may be injured, such as by running into said columns. Finally, a shade structure such as that depicted in FIG. 2 shades much more land area than that required to shade the playground structure. This can adversely affect the ability of grass to grow around the playground structure, such as when the playground structure is placed in a homeowner's yard. This also can contribute to making the air in and around the playground structure too cool for children to play comfortably.

What is needed, therefore, is a system of shading playground structures that ameliorates the problems associated with direct exposure of playground structures to sunlight without the negative side effects resulting from use of existing shade structures. The bridge also divides the load, allowing smaller members to be used.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a system and method for providing shade for playground structures. Most playground structures include columns used to support the playground structure. For example the playground structure might include platforms and slides and monkey bars. This system provides a substantial shading canopy over those structures. This shading canopy must be, above all else, stable and able to withstand the weather. However, it must also be raised above the existing structure so it does not interfere with the children playing. Also, in most cases it should be relatively horizontal.

This shade structure accomplishes these goals by attaching canopy columns to the existing columns of the playground structure. These create a stable base for attaching the canopy structures. The shade structure will need to be able to span a substantial length and thus incorporates a central bean or support. The canopy is attached to this central support with secondary supports. A shade fixture can be made comprising shade material over supporting structural members, including at least one column. Such a shade fixture can be secured to a playground structure by attaching the column of the shade fixture to a column of the playground structure. It may be desirable to have the length of a shade fixture column be variable to account for variable playground structure column heights.

A shade structure embodying the present invention comprises at least two canopy columns coupled to at least one primary support structure; a plurality of secondary supports coupled to at least one support beam; and a canopy coupled to the plurality of secondary support structures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The novel features believed characteristic of the invention are set forth in the appended claims. The invention itself, however, as well as a preferred mode of use, further objectives and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference to the following detailed description of an illustrative embodiment when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary playground structure.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a playground structure and prior art shade structure for protecting the playground structure from direct exposure to sunlight.

FIG. 3A is a perspective view depicting a playground structure with shade canopy fixtures installed in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3B is a perspective view depicting a playground structure with shade canopy fixture installed in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 4a, 4b and 4c provide cross-sectional views showing a canopy column connected to a playground structure column.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an exemplary shade canopy fixture.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an alternative shade canopy fixture.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an alternative shade canopy fixture.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an alternative shade canopy fixture.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The innovative system for shading playground structures will now be discussed with reference to FIG. 3A through FIG. 8. In general the shade structure includes canopy columns, a canopy or shade, and primary and secondary supports for connecting the canopy to the canopy columns. The shade structure makes use of the existing columns that are a part of a playground structure. The columns can be different lengths and thus the tops of the existing columns may not be even or define a horizontal plane. So the shade structure can include canopy columns to raise the shade structure high enough to avoid interfering with the children at play and to create generally horizontal plane to mount the canopy to.

FIG. 3A depicts a playground structure 300 with several shade structures 303, 306, 309 and 312. Each of these shade structures is connected to the existing columns used to build the playground. For example, shade canopy fixture 303 includes canopy columns 342 and 345. Shade canopy fixture 303 is securely fixed to playground structure 301 by attaching canopy columns 342 and 345 to playground columns 348 and 351. Note that the shade structure can also span to use new columns. This is useful when the existing columns are not on the perimeter of the playground. Shade fixture 312 includes canopy columns 318 and 321 which are attached to playground columns 324 and 327. The playground in this instance has several areas. The present invention allows for a significant expanse that can cover several separate play areas.

FIG. 3B depicts a playground structure 355 with a shade fixture 358 which also embodies the present invention. In this embodiment, only one shade fixture is used to protect against exposure to sunlight. Shade fixture 358 is securely attached to playground structure 360 by attaching canopy columns 362, 364, 366, 368, 370, 372, and 374 to playground columns 392, 390, 388, 386, 384, 382 and 380, respectively.

Note that the size and shape of shade fixtures will vary depending on many factors, such as the size of the playground structure, the amount of room around the playground structure, the climate where the playground structure is located, etc. Clearly, positioning of shade canopy fixtures also will vary depending on the circumstances. For instance, if a shade fixture is intended to cover a long, sloping staircase included in a playground structure, it may be desirable to position the shade fixture with a slope similar to the staircase, such as shape canopy fixture 303. Likewise, it may be necessary for the canopy columns to be capable of varying their length, such as when playground columns to be attached to a shade canopy fixture are of different heights. For example, it might be desirable to have the canopy at least 6 feet above the playground equipment. One of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the length of canopy columns can be made variable in many ways, including by using a telescoping column. Finally, note that only one canopy column is required to secure a shade canopy fixture to a playground structure.

FIGS. 4a, 4b and 4c are cross-sectional views showing methods of attaching canopy columns to playground structure columns. Hollow canopy column 410 is selected to have a diameter large enough to slide over playground column 405. Canopy column 410 may be secured to playground column 405 using high strength bolts. For example, two appropriately sized and placed holes could be drilled through playground column 405 and canopy column 410 as shown in FIG. 4. Bolts 420 and 425 could be placed through said holes, and the columns and bolts would be secured using nuts 425 and 430. Of course, one of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that numerous other methods could be used to secure canopy column 410 to playground column 405.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an exemplary shade canopy fixture. Shade fixture 501 includes shade material 503. Shade material 503 preferably is a porous material, such as fabric, to allow hot air to escape. Indeed, any material that reduces exposure of the playground structure to direct sunlight may be used, including but not limited to fabric, metal, plastic, wood, or the like. However, considerations other than sunlight exposure might in some circumstances make the use of a non-porous shading material more practical. For example, if there are extended periods of rain and sunshine where the playground structure is located, a material that protects against both sunlight exposure and rain would allow the playground structure to be used more frequently. Of course, the choice of material may also depend on its ability to ameliorate the earlier-referenced problems associated with direct exposure to sunlight.

Shade material 503 is supported by trusses 506, 509, 512, 515, 518, and 521. Said trusses are attached to support beams 524 and 527. Support beams 524 and 527 are connected by stringers 530, 533, 536, 539, 542, and 545. Also attached to support beams 524 and 527 are canopy columns 548, 551, 554, and 557. Beam 504 can also be referred to as a primary support structure and the trusses can also be referred to as secondary support structures.

The trusses, support beams, stringers and canopy columns of shade canopy fixture 501 should be made of whatever material is appropriate. For instance, the shade material that is used and the weight that can be supported by the playground structure and its columns should be considered.

FIGS. 6 through 8 are perspective views of alternative shade canopy fixtures 601, 701, and 801. Shade canopy fixtures 601, 701, and 801 are similar to the shade canopy fixture described with reference to FIG. 5 above.

The description of the present invention has been presented for purposes of illustration and description, but is not to be assumed to be exhaustive, nor is the invention intended to be limited to the form or configuration disclosed. Many modifications and variations will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. The embodiment was chosen and described in order to best explain the principles of the invention to enable others of ordinary skill in the art to understand the invention for various embodiments with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated.