What is a curtain wall and why are they so popular in architecture today?
Curtain Walls – Curtain walls are a self-supporting and structurally independent system that usually span over a distance of multiple stories. They are described as lightweight non-structural outer walls, are often aluminum-framed and contain in-fills of glass, metal panels, or thin stone. These particular walls are not made to be structurally bearing except under their own weight.
Stick-Built Systems – As the name suggests, “sticks” (extended pieces of aluminum) are inserted vertically and horizontally between floors, building the frame (mullions) that will later be used to support the enclosing panels. Stick built systems are typically found in vertical and polygon facades, and while they may work well for many of these projects, one of the greatest downfalls to this method is that a number of processes are required to erect the walls.
Unitized Curtain Systems (aka Modular Systems) – Alternatively, unitized curtain systems, frequently referred to as “modular systems,” are large glass units, typically about one story tall. Unitized systems are repeatedly commended for their quick installation rates, which can be up to one-third of the time it takes for stick-built systems, and their exceptional quality. The panels are pre-fabricated and assembled prior to arrival; this allows for fast assembly on site as the panels will only require hoisting into their specified location. Subsequently, the quality of these panels are much easier to control as most of the assembly and handling occurs where they were manufactured, in a controlled environment.
But the question still remains, should you use a unitized curtain wall or a stick-built curtain wall?
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