Generally speaking, curtain wall attaches to the outside of the floor slabs, acting as a “curtain” that is literally hung on the building and therefore, non-load bearing. It spans slab to slab, and systems are most often constructed in one of two ways; stick-built or panelized. With stick-built curtain wall, components are sent directly to the job site where they are assembled in the field before they can be installed. Panelized curtain wall is made up of prefabricated units built in a controlled shop environment. The units are sent to the field ready to be anchored at the floor slabs.
Curtain wall systems come in standard depths of 6 – 10 inches and can go deeper depending on manufacturers capabilities. Deeper systems provide more support without the need steel reinforcement. Curtain wall systems are the ideal choice when the distance between slabs exceeds 15 feet. has installed curtain wall systems up to 24 feet in height.
In either stick built or unitized systems, curtain wall provides superior structural strength. The entire fenestration system essentially “locks” together providing excellent protection against high wind loads and earthquakes. Due to the great structural strength, curtain wall can handle larger glass sizes than window wall. Since curtain wall is attached from the outside of a building, small cranes and boom lifts – most often provided by the installer – are typically required for installation. Panels can be hoisted from the ground or from the floor on which they will be installed.