Types of Curtain Walls
Currently today, there are thee main types of curtain walls: stick systems, unitized systems and structural glazing systems. Each system has it's own unique benefits and difficulties. Stick systems are the oldest and have the least problems with air leakage, vapor control and rain diffusion. These systems are built on site with full length vertical aluminum mullions and connected horizontally by smaller mullions. Vision glass is set between these aluminum lengths. This design has two joints on each side of the glass to help absorb movement and expansion from the building. Unitized systems are a factory version of stick systems. Glass and mullion sheets are constructed in a factory in a controlled environment, then brought to the work site. Each sheet is then installed in a shingle type fashion, starting on the bottom floor working horizontally around the building and then moving up floors. By pre-ordering this system, many contractors can close a job quickly. The downside to a unitized system is in the installation, each sheet of stick systems are attached together creating a third joint. This joint between sheets can leak and can be difficult to repair. The last type of curtain wall, the structural glazing system, is a more modern approach to curtain walls. Each pane of glass is encased horizontally by aluminum and vertically by silicone. The silicone sealant allows for heat expansion, and it provides the strength needed to support the load. Silicone is a vapor permeable material and must be sealed to control moisture penetration. All three types of curtain wall are used successfully around the world in high-rise buildings and small alike. All curtain walls should be installed by highly qualified technicians to prevent leakage and structural problems.
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