Is Aluminium Curtain Wall as straightforward as you think?

The simple answer is yes!

However as everyone knows there is never a simple answer to any question.  If you have a reasonably sized opening with a solid supporting structure and you want to fill this with a glazed screen then it is incredibly simple.  Some self supporting mullions and transoms, a quick structural calculation, glass units secured in place by a pressure fixing onto gaskets and you have a very high performing system.  If you had the material available a simple entrance screen 5m wide and 7m high could be designed, manufactured and installed in a day!

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Luckily this application is a small part of the aluminium curtain wall market.

Some installers will be looking at this and wishing all their projects were like this!  When you do glazing systems day in day out as I do what you really want is something out of the ordinary to grab your attention and challenge the grey matter.  Because of the simplicity of the curtain wall system it is incredibly versatile and can be adapted  to suit the following applications.

  • Raked heads and angled jambs
  • Facetted on plan
  • Curved on plan
  • Curved heads
  • Facades angled away from or towards the vertical
  • Sloped roofs
  • Facetted and curved roofs

As well as combinations of the above within the same screen there are, capped or silicone pointed external finishes, bespoke external caps or internal mullions, framed window and door inserts, concealed window and door inserts….the list goes on and on.  So you can see when you have a system that can do all this it’s a shame to just make a vertical facade with a door and some double glazed units in it.

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Simple as long as you know what you’re doing.

With curtain wall (and all other glazing) systems you are in effect enveloping the building against weather ingress and energy egress.  Most glazing systems should have a life expectancy of 50-60 years so when you design, fabricate and install it you have to get it right.  If you consider the system in isolation then this is easy to achieve, it becomes more complex when you introduce:-

  • Other envelope systems (cladding, render, brickwork etc.)
  • Working from a scaffold platform or cherry picker
  • inclement weather
  • Completion dates
  • Angry site managers
  • Parents evenings
  • Texts from the ex

What I’m getting at is something that a very experienced fabricator and installer said to me when I first started in this industry “it doesn’t matter how good a system you specify and how well you manufacture it, a good installation is everything”.  Don’t think that I am know going to blame installers for all the problems that can and do occur because often they are dealing with situations beyond their control.

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So what are the major problems?

The best way to illustrate my major bug bears would be to ask the following questions, if you have even a small amount of common sense the answer should be obvious!

  • Why copy and paste a specification from your last project straight into your new and completely different project?
  • Why not consider how easy the project will be to install when in the design phase?

  • Why not do as much fabrication as possible in the dry and warm factory and while you’re at it check what you’ve done before sending it to site?

  • Why not use all the components that are provided with the system rather than just the ones that can be seen when the screen is completed?
  • Why not ensure that the project manager for your site has at least some basic training in curtain wall systems?

  • Why not inspect and quality control while the installation is being done rather than waiting until it is completed?

If you are an architect, consultant or main contractor and want more information on curtain wall and to listen to me rant on and on about what can go wrong and how easy it easy to do it properly you can follow the link below and book a CPD:-

http://www.ribacpd.com/Blyweert-Beaufort-Aluminium-Ltd/12436/overview#1667

Blyweert Beaufort Aluminium present RIBA approved CPD:

Aluminium Curtain Wall : Design, Performance & Standards

  • Medieval definition of curtain wall
  • Modern Day definition of curtain wall
  • History and application of glazed curtain wall
  • Curtain wall types and design applications
  • Connection, drainage and fixing principles
  • Standards and legislation
  • CWCT testing procedure and results
  • Covers two core curriculum subjects ‘Designing and building it’ and ‘Compliance’

Next week I will be discussing BIM and should have some exciting news to share with you all.

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