Day: February 12, 2024

Curtain Wall Design and ConstructionCurtain Wall Design and Construction

Before steel and reinforced concrete were common building materials, the exterior walls of buildings supported much of the structural load. But the development of load-bearing wall systems allowed the exterior of a building to be made from lighter materials like glass, making it possible to create large glass facades that allow for natural light into interior spaces. Today’s curtain walls, typically made from aluminum and glazing, transfer wind loads and gravity forces to the building structure, resist air and water infiltration, and withstand seismic force induced sway.

Curtain wall design are often glazed with high-performance features that minimize energy loss, improve thermal performance, and enhance the building’s aesthetic. The selection of frame material and glazing options can depend on several factors, including: building orientation, energy efficiency requirements, architectural preferences, and consultation with structural engineers.

Designing the Future: Innovations and Inspirations in Curtain Wall Design

Curtain wall construction can either be unitized, in which the mullions (stacks of frames) are prefabricated and shipped to the building site for installation, or stick design, in which large sections of seamless framing are assembled on the jobsite. Both systems require careful fabrication and installation to achieve good performance and long-term durability.

A key concern for curtain walls is the size of the aluminum frame extrusions that define the system’s sightlines since they must be large enough to meet lateral load resistance requirements. The frame depth is also influenced by the amount of space required for a thermal break, which must be positioned so as not to expose framing inboard of the thermal break to cold air (i.e., short-circuiting). Also, connections to anchor the curtain wall must be designed to allow differential movement while resisting imposed live loads and preventing stress on the framing and glazing.