Aluminium curtain wall installation, Unitised Curtain Wall Installation ( Elements )
A curtain wall system is an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural, but merely keep the weather out and the occupants in. As the curtain wall is non-structural it can be made of a lightweight material, reducing construction costs. When glass is used as the curtain wall, a great advantage is that natural light can penetrate deeper within the building. The curtain wall façade does not carry any dead load weight from the building other than its own dead load weight. The wall transfers horizontal wind loads that are incident upon it to the main building structure through connections at floors or columns of the building. A curtain wall is designed to resist air and water infiltration, sway induced by wind and seismic forces acting on the building, and its own dead load weight forces.
Curtain wall systems are typically designed with extruded aluminum members, although the first curtain walls were made of steel. The aluminium frame is typically infilled with glass, which provides an architecturally pleasing building, as well as benefits such as daylighting. However, parameters related to solar gain control such as thermal comfort and visual comfort are more difficult to control when using highly glazed curtain walls. Other common infills include: stone veneer, metal panels, louvres, and operable windows or vents.
Curtain walls differ from store-front systems in that they are designed to span multiple floors, and take into consideration design requirements such as: thermal expansion and contraction; building sway and movement; water diversion; and thermal efficiency for cost-effective heating, cooling, and lighting in the building.
This involves detailed pre-construction planning crucial to successful construction and on-time delivery, and allows the client and team a clear pathway to the bidding process, construction phase, and through to completion.
The vast majority of curtain walls are installed long pieces (referred to as sticks) between floors vertically and between vertical members horizontally. Framing members may be fabricated in a shop, but all installation and glazing is typically performed at the jobsite.
Very similar to a Stick system a ladder system has mullions which can be split and then either clipped, or screwed together consisting of a half box and plate, this allows sections of curtain wall to be fabricated in shop effectively reducing the time spent installing the system on site. The drawback of using such a system is reduced structural performance and visible joint lines down the length of each mullion.
Unitized curtain walls entail factory fabrication and assembly of panels and may include factory glazing. These completed units are hung on the building structure to form the building enclosure. Unitized curtain wall has the advantages of: speed; lower field installation costs; and quality control within an interior climate controlled environment. The economic benefits are typically realized on large projects or in areas of high field labor rates.
A common feature in curtain wall technology, the rainscreen principle theorizes that equilibrium of air pressure between the outside and inside of the “rainscreen” prevents water penetration into the building itself. For example, the glass is captured between an inner and an outer gasket in a space called the glazing rebate. The glazing rebate is ventilated to the exterior so that the pressure on the inner and outer sides of the exterior gasket is the same. When the pressure is equal across this gasket water cannot be drawn through joints or defects in the gasket.