Walls may be built of prefabricated panels that are considerably larger in size than unit masonry and capable of meeting requirements of appearance, strength, durability, insulation, acoustics, and permeability. Such panels generally consist of an insulation core sandwiched between a thin lightweight facing and backing.
When the edges of the panels are sealed, small holes should be left in the seal.
Otherwise, heat of the sun could set up sizable vapor pressure, which could cause trouble.
The panels could be fastened in place in a light frame, attached to secondary framing members (Fig. 11.19b), anchored to brackets at each floor level, or connected to the structural frame of the building. Because of the large size of the panels, special precautions should be taken to allow for expansion and contraction due to temperature changes. Usually such movements are provided for at points of support.
With metal curtain walls, special consideration also must be given to prevention of leakage, since metal and glass are totally nonabsorptive. It is difficult to make the outer face completely invulnerable to water penetration under all conditions; so a secondary defense in the form of an internal drainage system must be provided.
Any water entering the wall must be drained to the exterior. Bear in mind that water can penetrate a joint through capillary action, reinforced by wind pressure. Running down a vertical surface, water can turn a corner to flow along a horizontal surface, defying gravity, into a joint.
When light frames are not used to support the units, adjoining panels generally interlock, and the joints are calked and sealed with rubber or rubberlike material to prevent rain from penetrating. Flashing and other details should be arranged so that any water that comes through will be drained to the outside. For typical details, see J. H. Callender, Time-Saver Standards for Architectural Design Data, 6th ed., McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York; and Tilt-up Concrete Walls, PA079.01B, Portland Cement Association.
Metal curtain walls may be custom, commercial, or industrial type. Custom-type walls are those designed for a specific project, generally multistory buildings. Commercial- type walls are those built up of parts standardized by manufacturers. Industrial- type walls are comprised of ribbed, fluted, or otherwise preformed metal sheets in stock sizes, standard metal sash, and insulation.
Metal curtain walls may be classified according to the methods used for field installation:
Stick Systems. Walls installed piece by piece. Each principal framing member, with windows and panels, is assembled in place separately (Fig. 11.19a). This type of system involves more parts and field joints than other types and is not so widely used.
Mullion-and-Panel Systems. Walls in which vertical supporting members (mullions) are erected first, and then wall units, usually incorporating windows (generally unglazed), are placed between them (Fig. 11.19b). Often, a cover strip is added to cap the vertical joint between units.
Panel Systems. Walls composed of factory-assembled units (generally unglazed) and installed by connecting to anchors on the building frame and to each other (Fig. 11.19c). Units may be one or two stories high. This system requires fewer pieces and fewer field joints than the other systems.
Ample provision for movement is one of the most important considerations in designing metal curtain walls. Movement continually occurs because of thermal expansion and contraction, wind loads, gravity, and other causes. Joints and connections must be designed to accommodate it.
When mullions are used, it is customary to provide for horizontal movement at each mullion location, and in multistory buildings, to accommodate vertical movement at each floor, or at alternate floors when two-story-high components are used.
Common ways of providing for horizontal movements include use of split mullions, bellows mullions, batten mullions, and elastic structural gaskets. Split mullions comprise two channel-shaped components permitted to move relative to each other in the plane of the wall. Bellow mullions have side walls flexible enough to absorb wall movements. Batten mullions consist of inner and outer cap sections that clamp the edges of adjacent panels, but not so tightly as to restrict movement in the plane of the wall. Structural gaskets provide a flexible link between mullions and panels.
To accommodate vertical movement, mullions are spliced with a telescoping slip joint.
When mullions are not used and wall panels are connected to each other along their vertical edges, the connection is generally made through deep flanges. With the bolts several inches from the face of the wall, movement is permitted by the flexibility of the flanges.
Slotted holes are unreliable as a means of accommodating wall movement, though they are useful in providing dimensional tolerance in installing wall panels.
Bolts drawn up too tightly or corrosion may prevent slotted holes from functioning as intended. If slotted holes are used, the connections should be made with shoulder bolts or sleeves and Bellville or nylon washers, to provide light but positive pressure and prevent rattling.
Since metals are good transmitters of heat, it is particularly important with metal curtain walls to avoid thermal short circuits and metallic contacts between inner and outer wall faces. When, for example, mullions project through the wall, the inner face should be insulated, or each mullion should comprise two sections separated by insulation.
For more details on curtain walls, see W. F. Koppes, Metal Curtain Wall Specifications Manual, National Association of Architectural Metal Manufacturers, 600 S. Federal St., Chicago, IL 60605; Curtain Wall Handbook, U.S. Gypsum Co., Chicago, IL 60606.
Partitions are dividing walls one story or less in height used to subdivide the interior space in buildings. They may be bearing or nonbearing walls. (See also Art. 1.7.)