19. Shade sails

Shade sail in a park

A building consent is usually not required for shade sails (and their structural supports) no larger than 50 square metres in size, and no closer than 1 metre to a legal boundary.


What the law says

Subject to section 42A of the Building Act, Schedule 1 exempts the following from a building consent:

Building work in connection with a shade sail made of fabric or other similar lightweight material, and associated structural support, that:

(a) does not exceed 50 square metres in size; and
(b) is no closer than 1 metre to any legal boundary; and
(c) is on the ground level, or, if on a building, on the ground or first-storey level of the building.

Guidance on the exemption

This exemption recognises the relatively simple, low-risk nature of shade sails. These are usually made of fabric and either attached to the outside of a building or freestanding with their own support structures (eg to cover a deck, patio or children’s play equipment to provide sun protection).

While there may be significant wind loadings on shade sails – something that should be carefully considered during their design and assembly – there is very little building work involved in their construction or installation apart from erecting and making connections to structural supports.

Shade sails attached to buildings

If you are attaching shade sails to the exterior of a building, you need to pay particular attention to weathertightness detailing. All mechanical connections which penetrate the building envelope and provide support to shade sails (eg nuts, bolts and coach screws) must prevent moisture from getting into the building.

Examples where this exemption could apply

A shade sail is to be installed above a deck at the first storey level of a dwelling located in the middle of a large rural property. The proposed shade sail has a total area of 20 square metres and meets all Building Code requirements.
A shade sail is to be erected above a sandpit at a childcare centre. The proposed shade sail has a total area of 42 square metres and is 2 metres away from the nearest boundary.
A number of shade sails, each 12 square metres in size, are to be erected in a public park.
The owner of a café decides to install several shade sails, each 9 square metres in size, in an outdoor courtyard to provide sun protection for customers.
An old shade sail, 20 square metres in size, above a patio at ground level is replaced with a shade sail of 30 square metres.

Examples where building consent is required

A shade sail with an area of 30 square metres is to be installed above a balcony on the fifth floor of an apartment block. As this will be located on other than the ground or first storey level of the building, a building consent is required.
A shade sail is to be erected above a play area at a kindergarten. The proposed shade sail has a total area of 50 square metres and will be located on the boundary. As it will be closer than 1 metre from the legal boundary, the kindergarten will need to obtain a building consent.
A shade sail with an area of 60 square metres is to be installed above an open courtyard at a shopping complex. Since the shade sail will be greater than 50 square metres, a building consent is required.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: