Before we go into what the structural requirements of a curtain wall system are, let’s talk about what a curtain wall system actually is. A non-load-bearing exterior wall system designed to provide a protective barrier and support the weight of its own components, a curtain wall system is not there to provide support for any other part of the building it is part of. Its own components might include glazing, panels, and framing. Aluminium curtain walling is a popular choice for architects when designing the facades of buildings. Because of their versatility, a curtain walling system can be used for a wide range of buildings, including vast spaces and curved shapes. However, there are some very specific structural requirements for a curtain wall system, which we can deconstruct as follow.

The Importance of Load Resistance

For safety, security and durability, a curtain wall system must be able to resist various types of loads. These could include wind loads – think hurricanes and storms, dead loads (the weight of the system itself) or live loads – think snow, hailstone or even people leaning on the glass. One factor that is of particular importance in areas where there are regular tremors or earthquakes – such as California or Japan – is the seismic load. These are highly populated areas, which makes them higher risk for fatalities. But they also have some of the most beautiful and modern architecture in the world, some of which have huge curtain wall systems incorporated into them. A curtain wall system should be designed to transfer all these types of loads safely to the building’s structure.

Testing Strength and Stiffness

A curtain wall system needs to possess sufficient strength and stiffness to maintain its structural integrity and resist deformations. Being able to withstand a variety of wind pressures, temperature changes, and other external forces without excessive deflection or movement is essential. One of the biggest benefits of an aluminium curtain walling system is its superior strength whilst at the same time, being aesthetically pleasing.

Water and Air Infiltration Prevention

When designed correctly, a curtain wall system should prevent the penetration of any moisture and air into the building interior. Its construction will include effective weather seals and barriers to ensure that water and air do not compromise the building envelope. Even if a small amount of moisture is allowed in through the system, it can cause longer term, very expensive damage so this part of its design is paramount.

Measuring Thermal Performance

To maintain a comfortable indoor environment and improve energy efficiency, a curtain wall system should provide adequate thermal insulation. This helps minimise heat or cold transfer between the interior and exterior of the building. Of particular importance with this is in establishments such as hospitals and hotels, where people are vulnerable or sleeping.

Essential Fire Resistance action

Depending on the health and fire safety regulations for a particular building or establishment, curtain wall systems may need to meet certain fire resistance requirements. This is taken care of by involving the use of fire-rated glass, fire-resistant materials, and fire-stopping elements within the system. Fire safety is of the utmost importance for the majority of businesses today so ensuring this structural element is usually established during any preliminary design outlines.

Enhanced Acoustic Performance

In some cases, curtain wall systems may need to provide sound insulation to reduce noise transmission from the outside environment. Buildings located in noisy urban areas such as hotels, office blocks or shops will have this as an essential requirement. In addition, any buildings that are located near transportation routes such as an airport or train station will benefit from soundproofing as part of their design.

Durability, Maintenance and Accessibility for the Long Run

A curtain wall system should be designed to withstand long-term exposure to environmental factors, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation, temperature fluctuations, moisture, and pollutants. Durable materials – such as aluminium, and protective coatings are often used to enhance the system’s longevity. The ease of maintenance and repair of the curtain wall system should also be a consideration and access to the exterior for cleaning, inspection, and maintenance should be provided without compromising safety.

Crucial Engineering – Curtain Walling Experts

Are you are planning on a refurb for the exterior of your building? Or commencing design of a new building and are considering the inclusion of a curtain wall system? If so, it’s important to note that the very specific requirements of a curtain wall system mean that you should, without doubt, consult with design professionals, including architects, structural engineers, and curtain wall specialists. At Crucial, we are experts with decades of experience in curtain walling systems and can ensure compliance with the applicable standards and regulations. As well as providing a friendly, reliable service, we support our clients with every step of an installation and have an award winning team of engineers. Contact us today to talk through your requirements.