Jun 10, 2022 11:00:00 AM | 6 Min Read

What You Need To Know About Curtain Walls as an Architect

Posted By Reynaers Aluminium
What You Need To Know About Curtain Walls as an Architect

Are you using curtain walls in your new building designs? If you’re not, you may be surprised to learn how functional curtain walls are and that they can help achieve a green certification for the building you are designing. Learn the advantages of curtain walls and how to use them in your next design:

The Advantages of Curtain Walls

Aluminum curtain walls offer your clients several benefits over traditional exterior materials, including:

  • Reduced Building Sway: Curtain walls reduce building sway by transferring the kinetic energy evenly throughout the building’s structure.
  • Increased Natural Light: Glass curtain walls increase the amount of natural light let into your building, which can help improve the moods of employees and visitors, plus lower lighting costs during the day.
  • Can Make it Easier to Get Green Certifications for the New Building: If you’re looking to get the new building LEED-certified, a curtain wall can help. Depending on the placement of the curtain wall and the materials used, they can improve energy efficiency in the building and reduce the overall carbon footprint.

Creating Curtain Walls

When it comes to adding curtain walls into your building designs, it’s essential to understand the components that make up a curtain wall. Knowing these components can help you better configure your CAD software.

1. Elements of a Curtain Wall

When designing a curtain wall, there are three basic elements, including curtain grids, mullions, and curtain panels.

  • Curtain Grids: This is the grid of the curtain wall. The divisions of the grid can be horizontal or vertical.
  • Mullions: Mullions are the elements between the panels on the curtain grid.
  • Curtain Panels: These are the rectangular panels that reside within the mullions, and they can be constructed out of metal, wood, stone, or glass.

2. Components of a Curtain Wall

The three elements are a great way to start grasping the design of a curtain wall. However, a few more curtain wall components are needed for structural integrity and visual aesthetics.

  • Anchor: The points where the curtain wall fastens to the building’s structural elements.
  • Mullion: The vertical support rails of the curtain wall.
  • Horizontal Rail: The horizontal rails between the panels, also sometimes referred to as a curtain wall transom. They make up the window heads and sills.
  • Spandrel Panel: These are located between the vision glass. They are typically used to hide structural components, like floor slabs, shear walls, and support columns.
  • Vision Glass: The glass panels between the rails.
  • Interior Mullion Trim: The trim and molding used around the curtain wall on the interior of the building to give it a finished look and feel.

3. Types of Curtain Wall Designs

Three types of basic curtain wall designs are used on modern buildings, including:

  • Stick: The entire curtain wall is assembled onsite. With this method, large sections can be created, and there are very few seams in the design that could allow air or water through to the interior of the building. The stick method is the cheapest way to transport the curtain wall components but the most time-consuming to install.
  • Ladder: The frames for the curtain wall are built off-site in a factory, transported to the construction site, and assembled. This design decreases the installation time but results in smaller frame pieces and more seams than a stick-built design.
  • Unitized: A unitized curtain wall is entirely built in a factory and transported as a single piece to the construction site. It is hoisted into place with the help of a crane. Installation is quick, but transportation costs can be high.

Tips for Specifying Curtain Walls

When specifying curtain walls, you need to consider four things: structural integrity, movement, weather-tightness, and energy efficiency.

Structural Integrity

Curtain walls are typically designed to support themselves. Part of the consideration of curtain walls involves wind loading. Therefore, a curtain wall needs to be designed to withstand up to a certain wind speed relative to the height of the curtain wall on the building’s facade. Additionally, if the curtain wall is designed with overhangs and the area receives snow or ice, the snow and ice loads need to be factored in for the overhangs.


Curtain walls should be designed with movement in mind. From the moment they are installed, curtain walls will move with the building if it sways, and they will move with high winds. Therefore, the curtain wall should be designed to absorb some movement and flex.


Exterior facade curtain walls need to be designed with water tightness and airtightness. Quality rubber seals, flashing, moisture collection devices, drainage outlets, insulation, and multi-pane designs can help improve the weather-tightness of the design.


The amount of weather-tightness built into a curtain wall can help improve its energy efficiency. Still, there are additional items to consider, including glazing and UV coatings, inner glass panes, low-iron glass, scrims to reduce heat load, and installing photovoltaic glass.

Energy-Efficient Curtain Walls from Reynaers Aluminum

Reynaers Aluminum has been making sustainable curtain walls, windows, doors, and facades for more than 50 years. We understand that modern challenges in urban settings have pushed buildings to new heights. Our curtain walls can be designed for low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise buildings.

See Our Curtain Walls in Action

Topics: Curtain Walls, Architect, Industry Trends

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