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Climate and local environmental factors

Shade solutions must offer thermal comfort; if the area is uncomfortable it will not be used.


  • Air temperature
  • Humidity—at lower air temperatures, the effect of humidity is barely noticeable, but when air temperatures are high, humidity becomes less and less tolerable
  • Air movement (breezes and cross ventilation)
  • Heat radiated from the sun and surroundings.

You should factor in the thermal performance of your proposed shade solution. It should:

  • Respond to the macroclimate (regional climate) and the microclimate of the local area
  • Allow for adequate air movement for comfort in warmer weather
  • Reduce negative effects of cold winds during cooler months
  • Take into account:
    • The characteristics of the surfaces
    • The effect of existing vegetation and structures
    • The materials used (do they reduce or increase solar heat gain and lighting levels?)
    • The users’ needs—for example, young children and babies spend a lot of time on the floor where the temperature and air quality are very different from that experienced by adults.

Design examples:

  • If it is hot and sticky, shading against UVR should be designed to exclude the sun’s heat and light and allow cross-ventilation to capture the breeze for cooling.
  • If it is cold and windy, shading against UVR should be designed to provide wind breaks to exclude the breeze and use north facing openings to collect the sun’s warmth and light.

Local environment

Local factors which may influence the climate at the actual site include:

  • Topography:
    • Slope—shadows are shortest on north facing slopes and much longer on south facing slopes. Hills or valleys at or near the site also affect shadows and wind velocity
    • Exposure—the site may be open or sheltered from the impact of winds by surrounding elements in the landscape
    • Elevation—height above sea level or surrounding area.
  • Ground surface—Conditions vary depending on whether ground surface is unsealed or constructed, its UVR reflectance, and the extent to which it allows water to soak through.
  • Three dimensional objects—Fences, walls, buildings or vegetation may influence air movement, cast a shadow, or subdivide the area into smaller zones with distinguishable climatic features.
  • Vegetation—an important element which may already be providing shade, screening an unwanted view, channelling breezes or soaking up excess moisture.

Queensland’s climate zones

There are 8 climate zones in Australia (as defined by the Australian Building Codes Board) and 4 occur in Queensland.

The boundaries align to local government areas.

Climate Zone

Climate Zone description / name


Location examples

Zone 1

Tropical humid

Warm humid summer, mild winter

Townsville, Cairns

Zone 2

Sub-tropical humid

High humidity summer, warm winter

Brisbane, Rockhampton

Zone 3

Hot arid

Hot dry summer, warm winter

Cloncurry, Charleville

Zone 5


Warm temperate


Download a Queensland climate zone map (PDF, 1.8 MB)

Use the Climate and comfort checklist to assess existing shade or plan new shade designs against criteria specific to your climate zone.

More information

Read more about designing for climate and comfort in the Cancer Council’s shade handbook (PDF, 4.48MB) (pages 12-14)

Last updated: 21 April 2016