How to protect suspended walls from damage during construction and transportation

How to protect suspended walls from damage during construction and transportation

Many new commercial construction projects are designed with large glass curtain walls that are attached to the exterior structure of the buildings. These glass walls allow filtered natural light to enter the interior of the building as well as create a beautiful exterior. Another advantage of these wall systems is to increase the spread of fire between floors and prevent air and water from entering. Typically, a suspended wall extends over more than one floor and consists of a metal frame with glass infills. Unfortunately, these glass walls are often damaged during construction activities at considerable expense.

Suspended walls can be damaged during transport to the job site, during installation and after installation while the rest of the construction work is being carried out. There are several methods manufacturers can use to protect aluminum windows and bays from damage in transit. Protecta foam strips can quickly bond to the metal surface and act as a protective barrier between stacked walls. Reinforced cardboard edge protectors from 2.5 to 4.0 inches can be glued to all edges of shipping units. Finally, in some cases rolled cardboard can be used if the weight of the units is not enough to crush the cardboard. The wall glass can be protected from scratches during transport using an adhesive window film.

Once suspended walls are delivered to the job site, unpacked and properly installed, they are at the greatest risk of failure. Various construction trades will work both outside and inside the construction project for months or years. Not only can aluminum be dented or scratched, glass is also at high risk of being scratched and broken. Some glasses can be very expensive if they provide resistance to seismic or hurricane impacts or ballistic resistant glasses specified in courthouse designs. Protecting both the glass and the metal after the curtain wall is installed is a smart move by any contractor.

Most damage to hanging walls occurs in the lowest 5 feet of the walls on each floor of the building. This is where workers and equipment will be in closest contact with the walls. The best protection is provided by a “wall” in front of the glass wall itself. This firewall can be made of wood or plastic. Although wood is the strongest wall protection available, it is also expensive and time-consuming to erect. Corrugated plastic sheets in 4-foot by 8-foot sections can be glued together in front of the hanging wall, providing a lightweight and easy-to-build wall. Unlike wood, plastic can be cleaned to remove dust and dirt if needed. Since there was no electricity for lighting during early construction, protective walls constructed of white or clear plastic allowed natural light to enter the building.

As the demand for curtain walls continues to grow, the need to protect these walls during construction will prove to be a challenge. Forward-thinking architects and building owners are taking the next step with wall systems, moving from energy conservation to energy generation. These newer PV walls will be even more expensive and more difficult to repair or replace. With proper foresight and use of temporary curtain wall protection, the smart contractor will not have to worry about damage to his or her curtain walls.

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