Constructing a transparent exterior wall has many advantages, including a lower weight than solid brick or metal walls. Glass curtain walls weigh less than curtain walls made from other materials, but their heft will need to be considered during construction to provide the proper support for the wall.

Windows of skyscraper
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Glass curtain walls are frequently seen on office buildings.

Curtain Wall Construction

Curtain walls are exterior, nonload-bearing walls. Since the walls only have to support the weight of the material used to make them, construction is different for them than load-bearing walls. The glass panes on a curtain wall cannot have stabilizing bars built through the glass for support. Each section of a glass curtain wall is supported by a frame that transfers the load of the wall to the main building frame.

Reasons to Install a Curtain Wall

Since the glass curtain wall does not support the load of the building, it is similar to a cosmetic skin on the outside of the building. People opt to install glass curtain walls on homes or buildings to take advantage of scenic views, provide more natural light to the interior or to add a sleek modern look to the outside of the structure.

Glass Panels

The weight of the glass curtain wall is directly tied to the type of glass used. Like windows, the panels on a glass curtain wall should be able to support their own weight and the force of the wind without shattering. This is a higher priority in tall office buildings than it is in one- or two-story homes. Though optional, tinting on the glass can prevent those inside from getting sunburn. Extra-thick glass panels will help to keep the interior temperature stable in the summer and winter.

Weight of Glass Curtains

Architects tend to think of the weight of glass curtains as the weight over a certain area, measured in metric units. According to "Elements of Spatial Structures: Analysis and Design," the average weight of a glass curtain wall is between 400 and 600 Newtons per meter squared. This includes the entire glass curtain system, the support structure and the glass panels. To convert this to the American measurement system, multiply the Newtons per meter squared by 0.02088543 to find the weight of the curtain wall in pounds per square foot. A typical glass curtain wall would then weigh between 8.354 and 12.531 pounds per square foot. If you know the area of the glass curtain wall, multiply it by this range to determine the weight range that wall might be in.