Placing trees strategically around buildings can save up to 56% of air conditioning costs while also reducing storm-water runoff and removing carbon dioxide according to the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service. In locations where it's impractical to plant trees, or in cases of less mature plants (it can take up to 15 years to realize benefits from newly planted trees) fabric awnings and canopies are an energy-saving alternative.
"Energy efficiency is really the number one concern with green or sustainable buildings, and awnings can directly affect energy use by simply blocking the sun," according to John Carmody (Center for Sustainable Building Research) cited in a Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) media release. "Heat gain through the windows is one of the main reasons why buildings need air conditioners.... We found that awnings make quite a difference in the cooling energy equation. In some climates you can save 20 to 25 percent of your cooling energy just by using awnings."
To promote the benefits of adding awnings to landscape designs, PAMA, a division of the Industrial Fabrics Association International, launched the Design with awnings Web site.