Review of Curtain Walls, Focusing on Design Problems and Solutions

Apr 12, 2010

This paper presents curtain walls, their fundamental classification, challenges associated with their design and construction. A balanced, holistic approach to the curtain wall construction is emphasized.

Structural role of curtain walls and their comparison with load-bearing walls and the importance of movement and adjustment of joinery are briefly explained.

The paper presents a fundamental classification of curtain walls by function, materials, place of assembly, mullion type, glass type, attachment, access, and configuration. Primary façade design principles are classified and demonstrated on curtain wall components, with emphasis on a structural safety and a holistic approach. Both classifications were developed by the author for purposes of curtain wall specification and education of parties involved in their design, manufacturing, and construction.

Sources of misunderstanding and confusion are explained, ranging from the uncoordinated design delegation, through a general lack of knowledge of façade functions among construction professionals, to the structural aspects unique to curtain walls. Performance tests of curtain walls are visited, and main sources of failures are indicated.

Karol Kazmierczak
Presented at: 
Building Enclosure Science & Technology (BEST2) Conference
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
Morrison Hershfield Corp.
Building Enclosure Technology & Environment Council (National Institute of Building Sciences)

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