The Latest Trends in Unitized Curtain Walls
The commercial glass and glazing industry is constantly evolving, and different trends are always entering the marketplace. Here, we’ll talk about some of the latest trends in unitized curtain walls.
One current trend is focused on the integration of multiple “infill” materials glazed directly into unitized curtain panels. Infill materials can be any material that is inserted into the curtain wall panel between extruded aluminum support mullions. Traditionally, they have typically been vision glass and spandrel glass (back-painted glazing with fire-resistant insulation materials behind that is located in front of floor slabs) to give the building a homogenous, fully-glazed “all glass box” look, but recently some other facade materials have been coming more into fashion like stone, metal, and terracotta.
Stone infills can be used for a unique flavor and design. Thin-cut stone panels are inserted within the same areas glass ones would normally go. The integration of this material not only offers a seamless look, but also a single source responsibility for a weather barrier within the same system, thereby limiting possibilities of leaks between trade areas. Some new stone materials being used are arriscraft, granite, marble, travertine, and limestone.
Another infill we have seen a rise in popularity with over the years is the use of metal panels. Metal panels can have various material compositions like aluminum plate, aluminum composite panel, stainless steel, copper, and zinc. They also create unique design feature opportunities through fabulous finishes, textures, and shapes available. Some of these options include: high or low visual reflectance of different materials, weathering of copper and zinc, brake formed shape designs of aluminum plate, and the full palette of flat or exotic metallic paint color finishes for aluminum panels available.
Terracotta Infills have also found a unique niche as an infill panel. These panels are light-weight and can create an interesting texture or rhythm to the façade. They are available in an array of colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes.
Sloping and undulating facades have become very en vogue on many high-end facades to set them apart from the traditional glass box shaped towers. The visual perception from the outside can be considered nothing less than a work of art.
Twin-skin or double-skin facades, a facade concept quite commonplace in Europe over the past decade due to the high cost of energy, have also been gaining more popularity in North America with the advent of the green building movement and higher LEED Certification goals for building sustainability. These building envelopes are bespoke systems built with an interior and exterior facade constructed in a way in which air is allowed to flow through the intermediate cavity. In cool climates the solar gain within this cavity can be used to offset heating requirements while in hotter climates, it can be used to decrease the cooling load making these systems functional and very visually distinctive.
Building in a sunny area? Custom sunshades are a great functional option. The design resources with these are truly limitless and give a very distinctive look to your building. Choosing automated sunshades, which is a modern feature, allows these shades to automatically move in order to afford shading and glare protection in specific areas of the building. Add sunshade louvers for an attractive look to your building that can be enjoyed from the inside and out. Some examples of sunshades are aluminum extrusion shapes, terracotta baguettes, mesh screening, formed mesh panels, formed metal panels, and glass louver blades.
Are you considering a unitized curtain wall as part of your next project? Contact us today to speak with a professional!
W&W Glass LLC is a family owned business with a 70-year history in the metal and glass industry, one of the largest metal and glass companies in the New York metropolitan area and the largest supplier of structural glass systems in the country. We have over two decades of experience in the design and installation of various building enclosure systems, including stick-built curtain walls, pre-glazed unitized curtain walls, Pilkington Planar structural glass facades, and custom metal and glass enclosure systems. We install all of our work with our own dedicated union labor force. W&W is consistently the largest employer of glaziers in the NY metropolitan area.
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