What are curtain walls? The BEST Answer

The main purpose of a curtain wall system is to protect the building’s interior structures against the exterior natural phenomena. Most of these curtain walls are made of glass. Curtain walls safeguard the building’s interiors from sun exposure, rain, temperature changes, earthquakes, and wind.


Curtain walls provide two types of safeguarding for the interiors, which are structural safety and internal environmental control. Structural safety problems include any kind of minor structural failures of wall components, wall-facing materials, and fasteners. It cannot safeguard the building if there is any major structural failure like a wall collapse, a major impact caused by the reinforcement steel rusting or rotting, etc. 

These curtain walls are capable of safeguarding the interiors by preventing energy loss from the interiors. They also do not allow noise to seep in from the outside to the inside and vice versa. The curtain walls give a nice look to the building and also hinder the growth of mold, fungi, and other microorganisms. They also help to control water seepage and spoiling of the walls by reducing water condensation.

The curtain wall façades are incapable of carrying any structural load from the building. It carries only its own weight and transfers all the structural weight, lateral wind loads, etc. through connections on floors or columns of the building.

A curtain wall safeguards the building from air and water infiltration and absorbs any kind of sway induced by wind or seismic forces on the earth’s interiors. It is also capable of withstanding heavy wind loads.

What is the use of curtain walls?

Curtain walls not only safeguard the outer structure and inner atmosphere, but they also have the capability to integrate the wall panels and weatherproofing materials. These curtain walls allow daylight to seep in and hence they are eco-friendly options. Many offices are reducing their electricity bills by installing curtain walls and removing the shades in the daytime. The employees feel rejuvenated when they get an opportunity to soak in the real sunlight seeping through these curtain walls.

They are aesthetically pleasing, and aluminum extrusions help to erect these large glass facades. Since steel used to rust, it was not ideal for the outer coverings of any buildings. Other common materials used to erect curtain walls are stone veneer, metal panels, louvers, etc. They are thin and lightweight and do not add much to the structural weight of the building. Hence there isn’t any necessity to dig the foundation deeper which invariably increases the costs.

Types of curtain walls

There are three types of curtain walls that are mainly used by the architects while designing a building-

  • Face-sealed- There is no gap between the wall and the frame. These types of curtain walls do not create any air barriers.
  • Water-managed- These types of curtain walls include moisture drains that prevent water from entering the building. The water seepage is drained out through these moisture drains keeping the longevity of the building intact. These types of curtain walls do not create any air barrier.
  • Pressure-equalized- These types of curtain walls block all forces (seismic, wind, any other types of turbulence like bomb blast etc.) and keep the building’s interior air-tight. These types of curtain walls do create an air barrier and hence they are best for safeguarding the structure. This type of curtain wall also repels water and does not allow it to penetrate into the building. If you live in a windy city which is prone to heavy rainfalls, it is a good idea to spend a little extra and install these types of curtain walls.

Benefits of using curtain walls-

Curtain walls are made of lightweight and affordable materials. They create a shield outside your building and defend it from weather wear and tear and other external intrusions like pollution, bomb attacks, etc.

Since they resist air and water infiltration, they increase the longevity of the building. The need to frequently paint the outside walls is reduced if the building is protected by curtain walls.

Installing good quality curtain walls will reduce the costs for heating, cooling and lighting the building. Curtain walls work as good insulators and trap sunlight and keep the interiors warm during the winter months. It also regulates air amply to ensure that the inside heat can be carried out without any constraints.

It also saves money on construction and saves your energy bills too in the long run. Many people might think that they are erected only to enhance the beauty of the building; however, they are extremely functional too.

  • You need not cover the entire building with curtain walls right in the beginning. You may start with only those portions which have been rented/leased off and tenants are occupying the office spaces. Curtain walls can be installed in installments without making any compromises to the structural design. Hence, the cost of installing curtain walls can be divided based on the occupancy of the building.

Curtain walls take care of the thermal expansion of the building once it is constructed. Hence it will not develop cracks if the building walls expand a bit with time. The same goes for wall contraction. In cold seasons and cold areas, just like other things, buildings also contract by a few millimeters when they battle with the weather conditions. Curtain walls take this contraction factor into consideration and protect the building.

The civil engineers will vouch for the fact that all the buildings sway a little bit and sometimes that causes the cracks in the walls. That is the main reason why the buildings develop crack if there is an earthquake. Curtain walls have the capability to blend with the wall structure and take the swaying. It does not impact the same.

Curtain walls can also be installed inside the building, and the building owners can choose from the multiple glazing options available to them.


It has become a norm in commercial buildings to erect curtain walls to safeguard the huge structure from many types of damage. It keeps the inmates comfortable and safe too. Even residential properties now are picking up this trend, and you will get to see many curtain walls even in residential apartment complexes. 

We have discussed the differences between pillars and columns here. These are often used in construction projects.


What are Curtain Walls?