Are you trying to decide between using a curtain wall or a window wall in your new building? Both of these exteriors are beneficial for the building as they keep out air and moisture and can help improve the building’s energy efficiency. Still, there are some slight differences between them. In this article, we’ll go over the differences between a curtain wall versus a window wall so that you can help your client make the best choice for their new build or remodel.
What Are Curtain Walls?
You can think of a curtain wall like a traditional curtain you might hang in your living room. Curtain walls aren’t attached directly to the floor slabs and instead hang off a fixture on the slabs, like curtains on a curtain rod. Curtain walls span several floors to provide a seamless look and feel to the building on which they are installed.
When it comes to the components of curtain walls, they contain two primary pieces, including mullions and panels. The mullions are the framing bars, while the panels are what sits inside the frames. The panels can be constructed from glass, stone veneers, or metal.
What Are Window Walls?
Window walls do not span across floors, like curtain walls. Instead, they are anchored between the slabs and are usually no more than 12 feet high. They are an affordable way to get floor-to-ceiling windows in a building.
It’s important to note that window walls are not load-bearing and must have support on every floor. Since they are hung per floor, a slab bypass is often needed to create a seamless look to the exterior of the building. Windows walls typically contain panels of glass.
Understanding the Differences Between a Curtain Wall & a Window Wall for Your New Building
The terms curtain wall and window wall are often used as if they mean the same thing by those who don’t completely understand the intricacies of the two. At their core, curtain walls and window walls both refer to a component of the building’s exterior that is designed to keep the building’s envelope air and watertight, and both curtain and window walls can contain windows.
As mentioned above, window walls are attached directly to the floor slabs. Additionally, when window walls are ordered, the factory builds the units in their entirety, according to the measurements and other specifications given by the architect and engineers. The completed window walls are then transported to the construction site for installation into the building.
Curtain walls are not fixed directly to the floor slabs like window walls. To create their seamless look, they hang off the floor slabs. This leaves a gap between that slab and the window, which requires additional precautions to meet fire safety requirements.
While window walls are almost always prebuilt at a factory, curtain walls can be factory-built, stick-built, or hybrid-built.
Factory-Built Curtain Walls
Factory-built curtain walls are constructed in large segments at a factory and transported to the construction site where they are to be installed.
Stick-Built Curtain Walls
Stick-built curtain walls are not built in a factory. Instead, the components are ordered from a curtain wall manufacturer, and those construction materials are assembled onsite as the units are installed.
Hybrid-Built Curtain Walls
Hybrid-built curtain walls are often referred to as unit-and-mullion systems. For this design, the mullions are attached to the building, then prefabricated panels are attached to the mullions.
How To Decide Between a Curtain Wall and a Window Wall
Since window walls and curtain walls are similar types of facades, it can be challenging to determine which one you need for your new building. Let’s take a look at some instances where you might want a curtain wall and where you might want a window wall.
When To Choose a Curtain Wall
Curtain walls typically cost more than window walls and take longer to construct because they’re larger and contain more materials than curtain walls.
However, if you’re building a luxury apartment or condominium, you’ll want a curtain wall's versatility and design flexibility. Not to mention, curtain walls offer improved protection against wind, moisture, heat, and even earthquakes.
When To Choose a Window Wall
If you’re not building a luxury building and don’t have a huge budget, you’ll most likely want to choose a window wall, which can be used for single and multi-story buildings, just like curtain walls.
The biggest benefit of window walls over curtain walls is their cost-savings. They’re typically a third to half the cost of a curtain wall. There’s also less chance of sound traveling between floors because the windows walls are installed per floor, not across multiple floors. Lastly, window walls typically take less time to build, so if your project is on a tight timeframe, you might choose a window wall over a curtain wall.
Curtain & Window Walls With Reynaers Aluminium
If you’re looking for high-quality curtain and window walls that are energy-efficient and made out of durable and recyclable aluminum, we can help you. Reynaers Aluminium offers aluminum windows and curtain walls that can make your building stand out and improve its energy efficiency to lower overhead costs.