When Americans typically think of their national parks, sweeping waterfalls and dramatic landscapes come to mind. Wolf Trap National Park is no exception when it comes to connecting with nature, but what is different is its main mission: to present the performing arts to the public. Set just outside of Washington, D.C. in a serene, natural area, the park hosts multiple events —including theater performances, operas and musical concerts — across several outdoor theaters and venues from May through September.  

The park also includes four outside, covered decks that can be rented for large events, including one deck set aside exclusively for the members of the Wolf Trap Foundation. It was these decks, which are completely open to the surrounding natural area, that needed more protection from the elements in order to host events during inclement weather. Draper, in collaboration with Goodwin Brothers Shades and Specialties, LLC of Rockville, Md., came up with the ideal solution using smart technology: the motorized FlexShade ZIP. 

Providing Protection while Providing Views 

Smart Technology

“Although people typically think of shades for controlling glare and solar heat gain through windows, they’re also very effective in this kind of application,” said Clint Childress, LEED AP, solar control solutions product manager for Draper. “The rain doesn’t penetrate the mesh shade fabric, and the ‘ZIP’ feature on both edges keep the panel securely in place,[Text Wrapping Break]so there’s no leakage. It also allows Wolf Trap to create a controlled climate for a more year-round events space impervious not just to rain, but also wind, insects and temperature extremes.”  

Since the view was the main draw of these venues, Draper recommended a fabric with a 3 percent openness factor. According to Childress, openness factor is related to the amount of surface area that is open on the fabric. This directly ties through to the amount of UV light penetration. 

“Three percent openness blocks 97 percent of UV light,” explained Childress. “This is different than visible light transmittance, which is brightness.” 

This means that when the shades are lowered, the hot glare of the summer sun is inhibited  from entering the space, but the views outside are extremely clear. It also means that the fabric weave cuts high wind forces down dramatically, making it easier to control the interior temperature of the space. For example, even in freezing temperatures the space can be used if the shades are lowered and heaters are brought in. Even rain can be kept out. 

“The holes or openness in the fabric are small enough that water often beads up and runs down the fabric,” said Childress. “Force would need to be placed on the water to break surface tension and pass through the fabric.” 

Thoughtful Touches 

Smart Technology

With large gatherings of people, there is always a concern for safety. Draper thought ahead with that issue as well. 

“When you have a lot of people and objects in close proximity to the edge of a deck area, there is sometimes a concern that a shade will deploy and either cause an injury or be damaged,” said Childress. “We avoid that possibility by using radio-controlled obstruction detection motors. If a person or object is in the way of a descending shade, the unit senses the obstruction and reverses course.” [Text Wrapping Break] FlexShade Zip’s potential for protecting against the elements, as well as its ability to keep people safe, makes it more than just a shade. In residential applications, it can be used on windows for glare and solar heat gain control or on patios for glare and weather protection. Childress says that Draper even has seen them used as visual barriers, since it can go up to 25 feet wide. For the installation at Wolf Trap National Park, it was because of FlexShade Zip that this beautiful but exposed deck was able to have the best of both worlds: the comfort of a protected space while also enjoying the great outdoors.