The use of glass in constructing the facade of a commercial building offers architectural interest and provides practical benefits, such as creating a bright and airy interior. Typically, architects have two choices when incorporating glass as a major design element of the exterior of a building: curtain walls or window walls.

Which Is Better For Your Building Design?

Neither solution is better overall, but both options have their own benefits and drawbacks. The decision between installing a curtain wall, or a window wall depends on understanding the pros and cons of each, in addition to the preferred aesthetics and design of the building.

Curtain Walls

Builders often choose to construct a curtain wall because:

  • Curtain walls are non-load bearing. A curtain wall can be constructed from lightweight materials available in a wide range of styles and designs to enhance the look of the building.
  • A curtain wall is able to handle moisture, temperature, and wind more efficiently than a window wall.

However, curtain walls are not always the best choice:

  • Adhering to local building codes that require firestopping and knock-out glazing panels can add to the building expense and can increase the cost of maintenance.
  • On-site construction means that possible delays due to weather, for example, could set back a project’s completion or could increase the cost of employing on-site builders.

Window Walls

Window walls offer a variety of advantages, including:

  • Saving building time. Since window walls are constructed off-site in a controlled environment, and then transported to the work site, inclement weather won’t cause as many delays.
  • Reducing noise. Unlike glass curtain walls, window walls don’t easily carry sound between floors since there is a wider space between individual panels of glass.

There are also unique disadvantages. Window walls are:

  • Load bearing, which means less glass and less sunlight, in addition to placing more restrictions on which materials can be used for construction.
  • More susceptible to leaking due to the seals between each glass panel drying out.