Skip links and keyboard navigation

Ultraviolet radiation (UVR)

UVR protection

To create an environment that reduces exposure to UVR:

  • Provide protection at the sides of shelters using solid barriers including toughened glass, louvers, overhangs or vegetation.
  • Consider the size of a shade barrier and the position of the users underneath it. Choose materials that help reduce the overall level of scattered and reflected UVR in the environment.
  • Avoid off-loading reflections onto other people and neighbouring places.

When choosing materials, consider:

  • Density – hard surfaces such as paving reflect higher levels of UVR than softer surfaces such as grass or soil.
  • Surface finish – smooth surfaces such as glass, aluminium sheeting or smooth concrete will reflect higher levels of UVR than coarse surfaces such as unpainted timber cladding, terracotta tiles, roughened concrete or brick paving.
  • Surface colour – lighter colours will reflect higher levels of UVR than darker colours. Limit reflective ground surfaces such as white concrete and white sand. When choosing surface finishes for walls and eaves, use matt and darker colours.

UVR exposure

Solar UVR can reach you on the ground from 3 sources:

  • Directly from the sun
  • Scattered from the open sky
  • Reflected from the environment.

This means that you can still receive substantial UVR exposure, even when shaded from direct sun. UVR is scattered and reflected by various environments, such as light-coloured concrete, snow, sand, water, and particles in the atmosphere.

Diagram showing how UVR is reflected from the sun or surrounding objects

Source: Shade for sports fields, Planning sun-safe outdoor environments in Queensland (page 53).

UVR reflectance levels of common materials

This table shows UVR reflectance of various landscapes and common materials measured during a Queensland summer:


Reflectance (%)




Cricket oval, freshly mown

Artificial grass


Cricket pitch, practise nets, green in colour

Black cloth


50% cotton, 50% polyester

Painted bitumen


Multipurpose sports court



Aged rough roadway



Swimming pool, various depths



Footpath, aged

Beach sand


Yellow, dry, flat

White paper


Smooth, plain

White cloth


50% cotton, 50% polyester

Last updated: 20 April 2016

UVR index

The ultraviolet (UV) index is an international standard measurement of the strength of sunburn producing UV radiation at a particular time and place. Read more about ultraviolet radiation and the UVR index.