Companies, building owners and designers planning to install demountable glass walls should prepare a list of specifications in advance of issuing RFPs to vendors. There are a number of points to carefully consider regarding movable glass wall offices before issuing the RFP. This is because these systems differ substantially from one another and the wrong specifications can make the difference between a first-class design and one that’s noticeably inferior in appearance and performance.
Glass Wall Specification Tips
“Glass is glass”, right? Wrong. Your first consideration is the glass itself. Clear glass walls are usually offered as tempered or laminated panels. ALUR glass walls use ½" thick tempered glass as its standard but ALUR can accommodate any ½" material. The reason for this is safety. In a test of panels for a 9'-6" ceiling height at a pressure of 5 pounds per square foot tempered glass deflected at an acceptable 0.84" whereas laminated glass deflected 3.5" – more than 4 times that of the tempered glass. Increased deflection creates a potential safety issue for employees if they lean on the glass.
There are 3 basic methods for creating glass-to-glass (butt-glazing) connections: silicone tape, “wet” joints and “dry” joints. It is our recommendation that “dry” joints be specified in your RFP. Dry joints are the most attractive in appearance, provide the best rigidity at connection points and offer the best sound attenuation than the other methods. ALUR panel edges are flat polished and chamfered to a precise angle forming a virtually seamless fit when using polycarbonate dry joints available as inline, angular “L”, “T” and 135° (3-way) connector configurations. Polycarbonate, unlike silicon joints, has a 93% transparency rate and will not discolor or shrink over time and separate from the glass.
Visual privacy concerns when using glass wall systems can be easily addressed. Specifying frosted tempered glass or applying translucent solid or decorative window films creates a glass “private office”.
Glass Wall Framing Considerations
We recommend specifying a “stick built” demountable glass wall systems as compared with unitized systems. Stick-built systems include vertical and horizontal framing members that can be used in a variety of combinations and can be cut or modified on site for a better fit. In most instances unitized systems have framing that fixes height and width dimensions thereby limiting adaptations to field conditions such as uneven floors or walls.
ALUR glass walls are supported by very sleek, low profile floor and ceiling channels to firmly hold glass panels. Floor and ceiling channels come in long lengths to minimize seams, and corners are cut at the factory to provide a perfect fit. Any seams in the framing are matched with the glass joints for a more elegant look. In ALUR postless configurations the only vertical channels are where the ALUR glass wall meets up with drywall (see below). Aluminum floor, ceiling and wall channels are bead-blasted to create a scratch-resistant and fingerprint-hiding surface, and are fitted with compression gasket inserts that seal the glass in and further contribute to noise reduction. Bead-blasted aluminum finish also provides a beautiful luminescent non-reflective type finish.
Dividing Wall Specification Tips
Dividing walls are used to separate work areas that are fronted and backed with clear glass walls or backed by exterior building walls. They can also be used for back walls if glass proves impractical or to separate public and private areas in the office.
We recommended specifying dividing walls offered in both vertical and horizontal panels or tiles. What is the difference? Vertical wall panels should be used as space dividers only and not to support office furniture components at the end of a bank of offices for example. This will provide tighter seams for a more unified appearance and better sound control. Horizontal wall panels should be used for interior office walls with built in tracks at 28.5" and 69" to accept off-modular attachments of worksurfaces and cabinets, and functional tile options such as whiteboards, tackable/acoustical surfaces, decorative laminate options and monitor screens.
ALUR insulated dividing walls are only 3.5" thick, yet provide exceptional sound privacy (42 STC) and are available in several tile finish options. In the horizontal configuration they accommodate hang-on furniture and integrated plug-and-play MAI modular power, voice and data cabling systems. Both configurations integrate perfectly with ALUR glass partitions.
Specifying Door Options for Glass Wall Systems
Safety and security are essential in all office settings. Two types of doors are available for most demountable glass wall systems. Framed doors are framed all the way the around with glass in the center. Framed doors are the least attractive and typically lower cost. We recommend specifying frameless glass doors that extend from floor to ceiling to compliment the floor to ceiling glass walls. One option usually selected for main entrances and restricted work areas uses pivot hinges and closers and ladder pulls. These doors can be fitted with mag locks and card readers for greater security.
For interior spaces a popular option is beautifully designed and highly functional sliding glass doors, also called frameless glass barn doors. Sliding doors also take up less floor space conserving 9 square feet required for a pivot door. Unlike bulky and costly sliding doors generally used by contractors we recommend sliding doors that conceal the sliding mechanism on the backside of the top frame. The mechanism therefore is not visible from the approach side.
ALUR sliding doors have brush gaskets at top and sides and an optional brush seal at bottom for superior sound management. Because they slide rather than swing ALUR barn door designs do not intrude – either into the office space or into corridors ALUR sliding doors are offered with both locking and non-locking ladder type pulls. Locking ladder pulls are ADA complaint.
Local Glass Sourcing to Save Time and Money
We recommend you specify glass wall systems that source all their glass locally as standard practice. This will save on freight cost, improve lead times and reduce the overall carbon footprint
Understanding Post and Postless Glass Wall Systems
This blog post focuses most on postless glass wall system using low profile aluminum channels at wall connections and strips and gaskets at doors. In addition to providing a sleeker design, postless installations require less aluminum structural elements with resultant lower cost. ALUR is also available with aluminum posts at doors and walls. This provides installers with a degree of flexibility in wall-to-wall dimensions and in providing better seals when used with pivot doors. The professionals at MAI will be glad to work with you in making the decision to specify post or postless configurations.
Don’t Neglect the Importance of Adaptability
When you specify movable glass wall systems remember that components should be adaptable to building conditions during the initial installation and later to accommodate changes in the office layout. Also, the wall system should fit into a standard construction schedule and not have forced “hold” dimensions that could extend the lead-time. The ALUR system is designed to conform to a variety of building conditions such as uneven floors, walls and ceilings and because of the on site framing and local glass sourcing does not require specific hold dimensions.
By: Mark Bassil, President and Founder of Modular Architectural Interiors (MAI)
Contact Mark Bassil if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of modern glass walls and architectural accessories.