Curtain Wall and Window Wall: What’s the difference?
Often in our design meetings and scope reviews there’s a brave soul who sheepishly, yet courageously, asks the question, “Sooooo, what exactly is the difference between curtain wall and window wall?”
While most of the room gives them the “that’s a dumb question look,” the reality is they are all thinking the same thing. After all, the most general definition of a curtain wall system is, “an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural.” The wall itself can be comprised of brick, glass, or any other material. For the sake of this article, we will focus on curtain wall as it relates to glass, and try to provide a basic overview of curtain wall and window wall systems.
Truthfully, even the glass and glazing industry doesn’t always see eye to eye on categorically defining the two systems. There are very distinct projects and applications when one system is preferred over the other, yet sometimes they are interchangeable. Many different factors need to be considered, and only after having a full understanding of a project’s goals and design intent can one decide which system is best suited for a particular project.
Since this topic does come up often, we wanted to provide some guidance on how we at Kovach view the two solutions. Our intention with this article is not to provide a complete dissertation on fenestration systems, but rather provide some high-level awareness about window wall and curtain wall so that you can be more informed on your next project.