Curtain walls have certain advantages. The main one is appearance, followed closely by maximized glass for daylighting. Another advantage is that erection can be done as fast as any other system.
Low-rise curtain wall is different from high-rise curtain wall. The sophistication of the water shedding and pressure equalization are the differences. These details show a low-rise solution.
Some of the key factors to consider about curtain walls are:
Structure - the curtain wall carries the wind load into the structural frame. The individual curtain wall framing members need to be strong enough to do that with minimal bending.
Material and Finish - For most low-rise curtain walls the material will be aluminum. Unless you use clear anodized aluminum, the choice of color is limitless using high performance coatings.
Glazing - The choice of glass affects not only appearance but also the comfort of those inside. Most buildings that use curtain wall are larger than the magic 10,000 SF limit at which the internal use of the building overshadows the building envelope in energy consumption. The choices are enormous. Remember that glass thickness is a function of the glass size.
Sight Lines - Not all curtain wall is created equal when it comes to the width of the mullions. The visible width of the mullions has a major impact on how delicate or muscular the building appears.
Sealants - The curtain wall manufacturer will offer glazing sealant options, but consider the perimeter of the curtain wall where it meets other materials. These may be hard to reach for replacement due to a premature failure.
Sound Separation - Sound separation, both vertically and horizontally, is an important consideration during design. It can be difficult to stop sound at the perimeter of floors and partitions where they meet the curtain wall if it hasn't been designed into the construction.
See these details to get a feel for how to incorporate a curtain wall into your design.
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