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The differences between window wall and curtain wall

Window wall and curtain wall are both architectural systems used in building construction, but they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics. Here are the key differences between window wall and curtain wall:

curtain wall and window wall

1. Purpose:

Window Wall: The primary purpose of a window wall system is to provide fenestration (windows and doors) within the building envelope. It allows for the admission of natural light, views, and ventilation. Window walls are an integral part of the building’s structural system.

Curtain Wall: A curtain wall system is primarily non-structural and serves as an exterior cladding or enclosure system for buildings. It is designed to protect the building from environmental elements while providing an aesthetic facade. Curtain walls are anchored to the building’s structure and do not carry the building’s weight.

2. Structural Support:

Window Wall: Window wall systems are load-bearing, meaning they support their own weight and the loads imposed on them. They are integrated into the building’s structural design and carry the building’s weight above and around the openings.

Curtain Wall: Curtain walls are non-structural and do not bear the building’s weight. Instead, they are supported by the building’s structural frame through mullions (vertical members) and transoms (horizontal members).

3. Materials:

Window Wall: Window walls are typically made of aluminum or other metal frames and include glazing materials such as glass. The emphasis is on fenestration rather than cladding.

Curtain Wall: Curtain walls can incorporate a wide range of cladding materials, including glass, aluminum, steel, stone, composite materials, and more. They are designed to provide an aesthetic facade, allowing for greater design flexibility.

curtain wall

4. Aesthetics:

Window Wall: While aesthetics are considered in the design of window wall systems, their primary function is to provide openings for windows and doors within the building envelope.

Curtain Wall: Curtain walls are often used to create visually striking and modern facades. They offer a high degree of design flexibility, allowing architects to achieve unique and innovative architectural expressions.

5. Transparency:

Window Wall: Window walls provide individual windows and doors within the building envelope. Their primary function is to admit natural light, provide views, and allow for operable ventilation.

Curtain Wall: Curtain walls are designed to enclose large sections of a building’s exterior with cladding materials, often including extensive glass panels. They can provide extensive transparency and panoramic views due to their use of glass.

6. Thermal Performance:

Window Wall: Window wall systems often incorporate energy-efficient glazing options and thermal breaks to improve thermal performance. However, their primary role is fenestration rather than cladding.

Curtain Wall: Many curtain wall systems incorporate insulation and thermal breaks to enhance energy efficiency. They are designed to provide weather protection and insulation for the building envelope.

7. Installation:

Window Wall: Window wall installation is coordinated with the building’s structural design and typically occurs as part of the building’s construction. Window walls are an integral part of the building’s structure.

Curtain Wall: Curtain wall installation is done during or after the main structural frame is in place, allowing for greater design freedom in terms of facade appearance.

window wall

Window wall and curtain wall serve different functions within building design. Window walls focus on fenestration and are integrated into the building’s structure, while curtain walls are non-structural cladding systems designed to enclose the building’s exterior with an emphasis on aesthetics and weather protection. Both systems have their unique advantages and applications in architectural design.

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