How long does curtain walling last?
Curtain walling contractors take a number of factors into consideration when estimating the expected lifespan of curtain wall systems in a building design. A curtain wall design involves many different elements and potentially many different types of material, all with different life spans and test methods.
To begin with, curtain wall systems are typically constructed either as stick systems or unitised systems. The former is modular and assembled piece by piece on site, which inherently carries a risk of human error which can impact lifespan of the curtain walling system.
The latter comes as factory made units with framing, glazing and infill panels pre-constructed which can reduce risk of error in construction.
Curtain walling framing
Curtain walling contractors usually begin building designs and curtain wall designs with the framing materials. Curtain wall design commonly uses stainless steel, aluminium, low carbon steel, timber, plastics and composite materials.
Aluminium framing is the most common, and this material typically has a lifespan of 60+ years.
Glazing and glass panels
Glass also has an expected service life exceeding 60 years. Insulated glass panels have a shorter lifespan expectancy of approximately 25 years due to the possibility of water penetration.
Curtain walling contractors often recommend weep holes to help water to drain away from within a frame or building assembly.
The glazing system configuration influences the thermal efficiency of glass and glazing. Composite panels are often used which can increase thermal efficiency
A well designed curtain walling system will maximise energy efficiency and durability, thereby extending its overall service life.
Test methods should be outlined by the curtain walling contractor to determine the likely resistance to wind load and water penetration. Air pressure measurement helps to determine whether the curtain wall prevents water entering.
Metal frames with thermal breaks help improve a curtain wall’s energy efficiency by preventing linear heat loss.