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Curtain Wall vs. Window Wall: What’s the Difference?

With the allure of urban life only growing, designers and developers must find a way to accommodate an increasing population within the limits of existing cities. Space restrictions mean building up, not out, while still providing inviting and well-built condos, offices and commercial spaces.

Curtain and window wall systems are a popular choice as they add design interest to architecture, as well as allow for maximum light within a building’s space. Here’s a breakdown of the difference between the two wall systems, plus the positives and drawbacks of both.


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What is a Curtain Wall?

A curtain wall is a glazed wall system hung off a concrete slab using anchors. Curtain walls are self-supporting and give a building’s exterior the look of top to bottom glass. Most often used on commercial buildings, curtain walls are typically installed from the outside of a building using cranes or rigs. Curtain wall installation is a complex process and can be more expensive than other systems.


Curtain Wall Lenmak Exteriors Renovations

Photo Credit: Wikimedia



What is a Window Wall?

A window wall is achieved by placing glazing between a building’s concrete slabs, using the slabs as structural support. Window walls have a break between the glass, with slab covers used to conceal the concrete. Window walls are often used in residential applications as they allow for more customizable sections such as windows and balcony doors. They are most commonly installed from the inside of a building, which is a safer, more efficient and more cost effective.


Curtain Wall Lenmak Renovations Architects



Curtain Wall Advantages

If installed correctly, curtain wall systems provide excellent structural integrity, as there are fewer mullions and joints required when compared to most window wall systems. Acting as a single unit, curtain walls are highly resistant to moisture, wind, heat and earthquakes. They require little maintenance.




Window Wall Advantages

Aside from advantages such as customizability, ease of installation and cost savings, window walls also require less engineering and safety considerations as the exterior wall is broken up by each floors’ concrete slab, providing built-in fire stopping. Also, because the separation of each window wall unit creates a sealed space there is less noise transfer and energy loss. Further, if a unit becomes damaged and needs repair that specific unit can be removed and replaced without affecting the adjoining units.




Backpans and Window Walls

When used in conjunction with curtain wall systems, insulated back pans are placed behind sections of the wall that do not require vision glass. In a curtain wall, the variances and design choices of the full assembly affect the backpan sections just as they will the glazing and other components. Because the backpans sit outside the floors, there is often variation in required height, leading to a more costly and variable manufacturing and installation process. However, in a window wall application this variation is eliminated. Pre-manufactured backpans rest between a building’s floors and are simply shimmed during installation to address any irregularities. Since most buildings are similar floor to floor, part repeatability is improved.


A Cost Comparison

For the comparable amount of glazing, window walls can be installed for half the cost – or even less – of curtain walls. Window walls are easier to install, which reduces the need for extra equipment, lifts, and handling time. Because the installation process is safer, fewer special precautions need to be taken, which further reduces cost as well as shortens the timeline of a project. Window walls also involve more repeatable components, improving efficiency during the manufacturing process. Further, a more rigid scope means most components can be assembled in shop rather than on site, resulting in fewer errors, less site disruptions and a higher quality product.


Taking Architecture to a New Level

Lenmak is proud to count EnvaTherm® and SpandrelTherm™ as part of our product lineup. Our EnvaTherm® insulated backpans can be used in window wall systems in conjunction with opaque glass panels or architectural panels when transparent glazing isn’t required. SpandrelTherm™, our foam-insulated metal spandrel panels, offer prefinished aluminium in a wide variety of standard and metallic colours. With our innovative automated manufacturing process and highly sustainable materials and methods, Lenmak products are as sensible as they are beautiful.

Lenmak Exteriors Innovation
Custom Pricing Build Cladding Lenmak Exteriors Innovations

How Our Automated Custom Pricing of Exterior Cladding Improves Build Efficiency

A company can have access to all the technology in the world, but if it isn’t properly integrated, it isn’t going to matter.

Lenmak Exteriors knows this first-hand.

With every facet of our business, we rely on some form of automated technology – from robotics to CAD to an ERP platform for business management – we’ve learned that to maintain the level of professionalism our clients expect from us, each layer of automation needs to operate seamlessly with the next.

It isn’t enough to have innovative and reliable products. The process of ordering, manufacturing and delivering the products has to be just as innovative and just as reliable.


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Integrated On All Levels

Much like each aspect of a business needs to function, not as an island, but as one part of an interconnected whole, so does the construction of a building.

 Architects, engineers, contractors, and manufacturers must all do their part to keep the timeline moving forward. One small delay can ricochet throughout the entire job, wasting time and money.

 Even the best-planned projects take a hit when unnecessary mistakes occur.


Small Mistake, Big Repercussions

 Picture this all too common scenario – the exterior cladding has arrived on a building site on the scheduled delivery date, but it’s the wrong colour. Now the manufacturer has to scramble to provide the correct colour, throwing the company’s internal schedule off.

 Meanwhile, back on site, the general contractor and subcontractors must adjust their own schedule to work around the mix-up, which has now set the entire project back.


Accuracy Equals Efficiency

 All of this is from simple human error, which is why Lenmak Exteriors has eliminated the need for employees to enter orders manually. Even highly skilled workers – such as the ones we employ at Lenmak – make mistakes.

The fewer times information needs to be processed by a person, the less chance there is of inaccuracy. This level of precision ensures the data chain from ordering to delivery remains unbroken, which translates to the highest level of efficiency possible.


The Power of Automation

The addition of the Reflex ERP by Edmonton company Reflex Enterprise Solutions Group allowed Lenmak to offer clients the power to place their own orders online.


So how does it work?

Initial data entry is made by the client themselves They fill out an easy to follow order form with fields to enter type of metal, colour, specific dimensions and so on. This information then flows through to the drafting, manufacturing and delivery of the actual product – without the data ever having to be re-entered.


State of the Art Estimating and Pricing

Aside from our ERP platform allowing clients to autonomously enter their order data, it also translates the specified product attributes into cost. This state of the art pricing functionality allows the previously manual process of providing clients with estimates to happen right in the ERP system.

Once again, time is saved and the opportunity for errors becomes minimized.


The Importance of Review Points

Because a client’s mind can change or the need to add new information often arises, our ERP system allows for review at specific points during the workflow. One such review point happens after the creation of the estimates and design drawings. Before the drawings are released to the production floor, an email automatically goes out to the client.

Once the client has reviewed and approved their order, the manufacturing stage begins. Just another example of how automation helps Lenmak maintain the high level of professionalism our clients have come to expect.


An Inside Look

The integration of the ERP system with the production floor machinery offers benefits that are twofold. Not only does it allow for the approved order to automatically flow to the production floor, but it also offers an inside look at the machinery data.

Now, the production manager can easily access information such as material availability and make quick decisions on how to approach each project’s specific needs.


It’s All About Communication

Communication – it’s the backbone of any successful business.

Communication between company members. Communication between the company and their clients. Communication between the people who make the company more than just an entity and the technology that lifts their operations to the next level.

At Lenmak, we’re always looking for new ways to grow and refine our operations in order to better serve our clients. Our online ordering system is a prime example of this initiative. Come check it out!

Lenmak Exteriors Innovation

Lenmak Exteriors Innovation

The 3 Best Layouts for New Elementary Schools

Picture long hallways, metal lockers, neutral colours and self-contained classrooms – schools haven’t changed much over the last few decades. However, education reformers are now encouraging architects and designers to rethink the traditional school layout, particularly the “double-loaded corridor.”

Why? Think back to your old high school or elementary school. The typical hallway you frequented, accounting for up to one third of a school’s square footage, moved you from one classroom to the next without actually adding to your academic growth.


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Here are three school layouts that reimagine the double-loaded corridor, and beyond.


Vertically Oriented School Layout

Vertical School Layout Lenmak Exteriors

Vertically oriented school layouts take inspiration from the current vertical building trend. Not surprisingly, this trend accommodates higher populations using less land, and means schools are built up instead of out. Aside from being a more sustainable way to design buildings, vertical structures have many benefits. Several of these positives, such as optimal daylight, are highly compatible with learning.

In Seattle, a new vertically oriented school is set to open in 2018. Offering 74,289 square feet of usable space, the building will serve as the middle school for the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. The classrooms are spread out over five storeys, one for each grade the school accommodates, and are organized around flexible shared living spaces.

Although some schools use the mixed-grade format, where students from different levels are taught either together or in close proximity, there are still convincing arguments for building a school with a layout that allows for grade separation. Students the same age and placed in the same grade often perform better academically, while students taught in mixed-grade classrooms develop strong socio-emotional skills.


Open and Transparent School Layout

Open Transparent School Layout Lenmak Exteriors

While those who design, build and run schools have long been concerned by open spaces creating distractions, brain-based research shows otherwise. Both children and adults learn best when all their senses are engaged. Further, the opportunity to problem-solve and interact with others in a space that is properly lit and ventilated stimulates our need to learn in a multi-modal fashion.

Three new schools in New Hampshire use the concepts of openness and transparency not only to create physical spaces, but also to create the mindset required to foster learning amongst young children. Instead of boundaries such as walls and doors, classrooms and shared areas are subdivided by short partitions, furniture and an abundant amount of glass.

If school is a place in which children learn how to function in the world once they become adults, then the buildings in which they learn need to echo the buildings where they will work. Today’s workplace is much more concerned with open-minded, collaborative and community-driven employees who are able to tackle problems than with employees who keep their heads down and voices quiet.


Activity-Oriented School Layout

Activity Oriented School Layout Lenmak Exteriors

Following the model of activity-oriented learning, activity-oriented schools are designed to teach students not by lecturing to them, but by encouraging them to engage. As each student is unique and excels in different areas, creating a space for each child to explore and develop his or her strengths – alongside peers – is much more conducive to learning.

Activity-oriented learning extends beyond the classroom and into the school as a whole. Traditionally, areas such as sports fields and playgrounds are placed on the perimeter of the school. This separation of area – work from play – once again reiterates that classrooms and school buildings are thought of as places for quiet learning. However, educators are beginning to see that skills learned through activities have their own place in the curriculum.

Schools such as the proposed Siheung Elementary School in South Korea place the outdoor sports field at the centre of the school – much like a courtyard. This layout allows for physical activities to be visible from administrative and work areas, while also letting sunlight into the offices and classrooms.


Every Point a Place to Learn

To rethink how schools are designed is to rethink how children – and all humans – think and grow. Research has proven time and again that our surroundings greatly impact our emotional, physical and spiritual states. Armed with this knowledge, it only makes sense that schools provide the newest generation with spaces that are calming and stimulating, welcoming and challenging. It’s about more than creating buildings designed to move children from point A to point B; these spaces should encourage students to both work hard and play hard. Every point within a school should be thought of as a place to learn.  

Lenmak Exterior Innovation

Lenmak Exteriors Innovation

3 Points to Consider on Alternatives in Exterior Cladding

Navigating through the exterior cladding options available to you can be a challenge, particularly where efficiency and budget are concerned. Demand for thermal efficiency in building design can come at a cost. Therefore, the question you may be asking yourself is this: what can be sacrificed in design, without compromising on building code compliance?

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Here are three points to consider when selecting exterior panels:

Fire Safety

Building code regulations are always a factor to consider when selecting exterior cladding and are not something to cheat. Canada has one of the more stringent systems when it comes to building codes but there are, of course, local variations. When selecting materials that are code-compliant, you may need to consider the cladding, core or a combination of the two for fire safety. Noncombustible or fire-rated materials in all cases and combinations are ideal but can be much more expensive.

Ensuring your exterior cladding won’t add fuel to the flame can be of particular importance, especially when it comes to multi-storey building projects.

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)

Building in Canada is continually improving when it comes to sustainable and environmentally-conscious construction practices. When it comes to cladding, there are a few LEED credits you may be able to earn, depending on the materials used.

Keep an eye out for:

  1. LEED Indoor Environmental Quality Credit 2 – Low Emitting Materials – Paints & Coatings (1 Point); this rewards the use of non-hazardous paints and coatings. Ensure your cladding is coated with a material that emits no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  2. LEED Materials & Resources Credit 2 – Waste Management (2 points); this addresses the recycling or salvaging on non-hazardous construction debris, and is awarded based on a percentage of all construction debris on the project. If your exterior cladding is 100% recyclable, you may have a better opportunity to earn this credit based on what isn’t used on site.
  3. LEED Materials & Resources Credit 4 – Recycled Content (2 points); this credit takes a look at recycled content used on a project. A formula is used to quantify the recycled content relative to its value as a portion of the full project scope. Points are awarded on two sub-credit categories, in which 50% of post-industrial and 100% of post-consumer must meet or exceed 10 or 20% of the total value.
  4. LEED Materials & Resources Credit 5 – Regional Materials (2 points); depending on the location of your project site in relation to the manufacturing site, you may be able to earn this credit – stressing the importance of local manufacturers. Use of products or materials that have been extracted, recovered or manufactured within 800km of your site may be eligible, and are allocated based on the percentage of the material total value.

The Intersection of Environment and Safety

Here is where point one and two meet. Sometimes particular materials are chosen in an effort to increase the energy efficiency or environmental consciousness of a building project as a whole. However, in some cases, efforts for one cause can compromise the other.


As you will notice, these three points don’t even address design or budget – both sizeable considerations in their own right. This leads to the fact that if you want an affordable aesthetically-pleasing building, that is also safe and environmentally conscious, you need a collaborative cladding solution that doesn’t sacrifice on any consideration.


Aluminaire™: Lenmak’s Non-Combustible Exterior Cladding

Aluminaire™ is not your typical exterior panel. Made from high-quality aluminum, this cladding ensures your style, function and budget all align.

Key Features:

  • Solid, high-quality 2mm aluminum architectural panel
  • Made in Canada
  • Non-solvent-based powder coat
  • No risk of de-lamination
  • Single-skin unibody design to maintain rigidity, flatness and add versatility
  • Does not contain combustible materials
  • High potential for up to 7 points toward LEED certification
    • Possible credits listed above: IEQ2, MR2, MR4 and MR5
  • Extensive selection of architectural finishes in both solid and metallic colours

As a leader in cladding innovation, we have comfort knowing that our products follow guidelines for recycled content with non-combustible features. With Aluminaire™, Lenmak has a collaborative solution to your safety requirements and your LEED certification desires, all within your budget – with an aesthetic punch.

Sleep easy knowing that our solid aluminum/steel exterior panels will not combust and add life to a fire, well after the job is done.


For a complete overview of Lenmak, including a look at projects featuring Aluminaire™, you can download our Lenmak at a Glance eBook by clicking the image below.

Lenmak Exterior Innovations