People’s lifestyle changes influence architecture and building construction. In earlier times, many urban centers were mostly associated with business and the urban landscape was dominated by commercial buildings.
Today, many people consider downtown commercial centers as a perfect place to live, where work and home are in close proximity and where all the culture, entertainment, shopping and food options are at their fingertips.
That’s why in so many major cities these days, you can see high-rise commercial buildings standing side-by-side with mixed-use residential towers that also contain retail shops, movie theaters and restaurants. Often these are condominium buildings, whose unit owners are frequently the same people who work in the commercial buildings around the corner or in the neighborhood.
This major development in the people’s lifestyles also is reflected in the design and building these structures, particularly through the use of modern curtain walls and window walls. These two “walls” are often confused with each other. But they have very basic differences between them, from their purpose to their costs.
A curtain wall is an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural, but merely keep out the weather. As the curtain wall is non-structural, it can be made of a lightweight material reducing construction costs. When glass is used as the curtain wall, a great advantage is that natural light can penetrate deeper within the building. The curtain wall facade does not carry any dead load weight from the building other than its own dead load weight.
A window wall is a factory-glazed window (and door) unit that is installed between the floor slabs of multi-story buildings. When the floor slabs edges are covered on the exterior with aluminum slab covers, the resulting appearance is that of curtain wall.
Curtain wall is on the outside of the structure. Window wall sits between the floor slabs at the outer edge – – in other words, it is a curtain wall but broken at every floor slab.
Commercial high rise office buildings typically use curtain wall. Residential high rise towers typically use window wall, but can also use curtain wall. Why?
In curtain wall, as it is OUTSIDE the slab itself, you get less infringement on the slab and therefore more rentable space. Commercial office buildings most always are rented by the square foot. Large high rise residential space is usually sold /rented by the unit, not the square foot. Window wall typically is thought of by high rise residential owners/developers as LESS expensive than curtain wall, so that’s why it is more prevalent usually in large residential hi rise building.