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A curtain wall is a non-load-bearing exterior wall cladding that is hung to the exterior of the building, usually spanning from floor to floor.

Curtain wall vertical framing members run past the face of floor slabs, and provision for anchorage is typically made at vertical framing members only. In contrast to combination assemblies and composite units, non-residential curtain wall systems often need to meet additional performance requirements for inter-story differential movement, seismic drift, dynamic water infiltration, etc.

Operating vents and entrance doors are provided as separate inserts.

Attributes of Curtain Wall Framing Systems*

  • Typically Span Multiple Floors
  • Relatively Large Unsupported Spans
    • Entrance or Lobby Areas
  • Typical Fabrication Methods
    • Shear Block
    • Screw Spline
  • Installation Methods
    • Stick
    • Unitized (Pre-Glazed)
  • Water Control/Drainage
    • Each glass lite drains individually
    • Performance is determined by the rain screen principle and pressure equalization
    • Typically tested to 15-20 psf
  • Glazing Options
    • Outside glazed
    • Inside glazed
    • Pre-glazed
  • Anchorage
    • Directly off building structure
  • Typical Dimensions
    • Sightlines - Typically 2-1/4” to 3” Wide
    • System Depth – Typically 6” to 10” Deep
  • Additional features
    • Accommodate Entrance Doors
    • Accommodate Operable Windows
    • Accommodate Exterior Sunshade Devices
    • Accommodate Interior Light Shelves
    • Accommodate Multiple Snap-On Face Covers (Depth and Profile) 

Curtain walls are designed to withstand wind loads and transfer them to the structure to which it is attached. Although curtain walls come in a variety of design appearances, they are generally characterized by narrowly spaced vertical and horizontal elements with glass, metal or other infill materials. Curtain walls are designed to span multiple floors; they take into consideration design requirements, such as thermal expansion and contraction, building movement, water diversion, as well as help to improve thermal efficiencies for the building.

*For more details, reference the AAMA Curtain Wall Manual.