Advances in Fenestration Design and Functionality

Innovative products and strategies bring fenestration solutions to the next level
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Sponsored by CornellCookson, C.R. Laurence – U.S. Aluminum, Graham Architectural Products, Guardian Glass, Marvin Windows and Doors, Milgard® Windows & Doors, NanaWall Systems, Vetrotech Saint-Gobain North America, and Vitrocsa USA
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Opening Glass Wall Systems

For manufacturers, it’s important to supply products that enable the architect to fulfill their vision while also providing a product that lasts. These points are as important to the architect as the aesthetic—as well as the product being recommended to the client. In other words, you want to be able to trust the product within your design to fulfill the objective but to also not let you down. An example of such a product is opening glass wall systems, which can be customizable.

Design and Performance

According to Matt Thomas, marketing manager for NanaWall Systems Inc., “Large openings are easy to design, but it’s the performance when closed that matters most. Glass walls must perform during all seasons of the year—especially glass walls that open. Their performance is critical.” In fact, the true measure of quality is how an opening glass wall performs when closed. This is the most important attribute, as it’s potentially the weakest link if not designed correctly. Performance attributes to look for may include:

  • Energy efficient: When the opening glass wall system is closed, the energy-efficient design should keep the cold on the outside while maintaining warmth inside—even right up against the glass and frames.
  • Seals out wind and rain: Specialized seals and panel design can provide superior humidity and moisture control, while sill designs can resist wind-driven water from entering the home.
  • Extreme weather resistance: When closed, the glass walls should form a refuge against extreme weather, keeping occupants comfortable and secure. Some manufacturers’ products include moving structural posts that provide unparalleled strength in a Miami-Dade County and AAMA hurricane approved (NOA 15-0226.05 and 15-226.06) system.
Skullcandy headquarters in Salt Lake City

Photo courtesy of Nanawall Systems

Opening glass wall systems provide both beauty and function for a variety of applications. Shown here is Skullcandy headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Watch the video clip below to see an opening glass wall system in action.

Slim Glass Systems

Structurally glazed, operable walls with minimal sightlines is a growing trend in the industry. More and more people are becoming aware of the benefits from both aesthetic and performance perspectives.

Architects tend to question how the profiles of this type of system are so thin (less than 1 inch), but manufacturers rely on the structural glazing rather than the frame for support. This also allows for the panels to be larger, so that occupants can enjoy an expansive, uninterrupted view.

“Twenty-five years ago, Swiss engineers at a leading fenestration manufacturing company modified the function of glazing to invent a sliding system with ultra slim sightlines,” explains Jessica Kim, senior technical marketing manager at Vitrocsa USA. “In its traditional role, glass fills the frame and performs virtually no static function. It was found that glass can be used as a structural element that itself supports the window, resulting in a minimal frame that serves simply as the guide along which the glass can slide. The invisible sliding glass wall was invented.”

Features of Slim Glass Systems

Sliding systems are available with both horizontal and vertical profiles, but slim glass systems can also be fixed, or there can be pivoting systems with the same slim and matching profiles. Regardless, stainless-steel roller bearings are in the tracks, which allows for the panels to span from the floor to the ceiling. Some of these systems are even self-draining, meaning water and debris can flow through the tracks without interrupting the operation of the system.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Photo courtesy of Vitrocsa USA

Eighteen-foot oversized sliders have been installed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The aluminum is clad in bronze to match the surroundings.

Design Features
  • Maintain consistent slim sightline throughout all product offerings
  • Slim profile allows zero visual boundaries between the inside and outside of building; brings the outdoors in
  • The units are generally dual glazed or triple glazed
  • Thermally broken
  • NFRC rated
  • Air and water tightness tested
  • Acoustic rated
  • Able to withstand harsh climates

Historic Renovations

Specialty manufacturers can play a key role in helping owners and developers meet stringent historic renovation requirements with innovative solutions, including replication windows. Architects frequently seek a design that has not previously been manufactured. Architectural product manufacturers that specialize in custom solutions will work closely with them to create a new design to meet their exact needs.

Product options may include not only custom designs to satisfy project needs but also creation of an entirely new product, such as a new steel replication window for the Starrett Lehigh Building in New York City.

Benefits of Using Modern Materials and Designs

Retrofitting older buildings with modern materials and designs provides higher structural performance and thermal efficiency. Historic window products can offer a wide range of aesthetic options that transform historic buildings into modern performing buildings while retaining their original appearance.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Photo courtesy of Graham Architectural Products

The Starrett Lehigh Building retrofit in New York City features a new steel replication window for the landmark structure.


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Originally published in Architectural Record


Advances in Fenestration Design and Functionality
Buyer's Guide
Extreme 300 Series High Performance Grille
The Extreme® 300 Series Grille is three times faster than standard coiling grilles and performs 300,000 cycles. Opening at speeds up to 24 inches per second and closing at 12 inches per second, it also improves air flow and allows more natural light in applications like parking facilities and transportation hubs.
Entice® Ultra-Narrow Stile Thermal Entrance
Entice merges all-glass aesthetics with full-frame thermal performance. Featuring ultra-narrow 1⅛-inch vertical stiles, it offers one of the thinnest profiles available while delivering U-factors as low as 0.33 using thermally broken framing and cladding. Entice also has the unique ability to support door handle hardware—including panic devices—on 1-inch insulating glass.
C.R. Laurence – U.S. Aluminum
SR6700 Series Steel Replica Window
Graham Architectural Products’ innovative SR6700 Series window is designed to replicate the original steel windows used in many older buildings. It features large sizes with a floating vent, minimal sight lines, and applied grids. The SR6700’s design is so authentic, it has helped numerous projects attain National Park Service approval.
Graham Architectural Products
Guardian Jumbo Glass
Guardian Jumbo Glass lets you impress at first sight with expansive exteriors that communicate confident design. We’re bringing larger glass sizes to North America with our newest jumbo coater—extending views and experiences. Start exploring possibilities for your upcoming projects today.
Marvin Contemporary Direct Glaze Windows
Available in corner units, rectangles, polygons, and sizes up to 86 inches wide and 146 inches high, these windows give architects the luxury of matching Marvin’s Contemporary Studio collection of windows with direct glaze options. With narrow profiles and clean lines, windows from Marvin deliver modern aesthetics and performance to frame contemporary points of view.
Marvin Windows and Doors
Essence Series® Wood Windows and Doors
Milgard combines a durable, energy-efficient fiberglass exterior for exceptional weather performance with beautiful solid wood interior. Essence Series is built to last. Crafted with award-winning features like SmartTouch® hardware for ease of use, Essence Series offers a Full Lifetime Warranty with Glass Breakage Coverage that includes parts and labor.
Milgard® Windows & Doors
NanaWall Single Track Systems
Design around structural obstacles with the flexibility to park panels anywhere. Panels can park outside the plane of the opening in a parking bay, closet, or even in another room.
NanaWall Systems
Keralite SafeGuard
Keralite SafeGuard provides uncompromised life safety and physical security against fire, accidental impact, and domestic terror. Product features include fire, forced-entry, and intrusion resistance; impact safety rated per CPSC16 CFR Part 1201 (Categories I & II), ANSI Z97.1, and CAN/CGSB 12.1-M90; and easy installation into standard fire-rated applications.
Vetrotech Saint-Gobain North America
The Invisible Glass Wall Sliding System
The original minimal sliding wall system invented in Switzerland in 1992 is now manufactured in the United States from Swiss-made profiles. This thermally broken system has ultra-slim sightlines and is offered as sliding, fixed, vertical sliding, pivoting, and from mid-2018, also as turnable corner and casement windows. It is air, water, and acoustics tested, available as dual or triple glazed, and optional hurricane impact rated.
Vitrocsa USA