- By Rob Wittl
- January 1st, 2003
Flexibility. Reusability. Environmental responsibility. Better sound transmission ratings. More design options. It’s no wonder that movable walls are now being specified for many educational facilities. These factors that have often made movable walls a viable solution for businesses are also important in school environments.
Anticipate the future. For a recently built building, school administrators knew classroom enrollment would fluctuate from semester to semester. To accommodate these changes, they built drywall room fronts but used movable walls for the dividing walls. The first semester enrollment was 30 students and the movable dividing walls were set 20 ft. apart. The next semester enrollment grew to 45 students and the movable dividing walls were set 30 ft. apart to easily handle the increase.
Save money on rewiring. In many cases, movable walls offer the option of prewired data and power that can be factory installed for vertical or horizontal distribution. This represents significant cost savings. Some of the highest costs during initial installation and subsequent reconfigurations are the costs of moving voice and data lines through conventional drywall.
Change is a good thing. A few movable wall systems have removable faces. Walls can be changed from vinyl, fabric or painted fronts to a wet marker erasable surface, creating a fully writeable wall. Removable faces also allow easy field access to electrical and data.
Now or later. Better movable walls systems have optional slotting standards that accommodate hang-on components such as marker boards, storage, shelving and work surfaces, which can be added at any time.
No muss. No fuss. Facilities can move and reuse movable walls again and again. Reconfigurations are quick and clean. Whereas conventional drywall construction is time consuming, creates a mess and is a noisy disruption.
Look at the big picture. Like many businesses, some educational facilities use theparking lot approach, which encompasses the entire interior construction strategy. Install carpet tiles and ceiling tiles before using interior movable walls. Less cutting or trimming of tiles around fixed drywall construction allows more tiles to be reused, a savings in material and labor costs as well as a better environmental impact.
Less is more. Better movable walls systems are factory assembled and shipped to the site as complete (unitized) panel and door units. This significantly reduces inventory parts and installation time. A good gauge for the number of inventory parts is 4.5 to 6 parts.
Make the comparison. Movable wall glass panels and door units are very price competitive when compared to permanent-built glass panels and door units. Usually glass panels are factory assembled. Glass panels offer many different types of commodity and architectural glass options. In addition to classroom use, schools should consider using movable glass walls for office fronts. Movable walls are a competitive and reusable option to standard permanent construction.
Be kind to the earth. Most movable wall products are made of recyclable steel or aluminum, finished in VOC-friendly powdercoat paints or anodized, and they often use water-based glues. Assembly is usually done in a factory environment monitored for local, state and federal requirements. The final movable wall assembly can offer up to 99 percent recyclability after its full life-cycle use.
Waste not. Want not. By using movable walls, schools save the high cost of disposing of gypsum waste and interior finish debris created from conventional drywall construction. Using movable walls also minimizes the creation of waste, reducing the negative impact on the earth’s environment.
Set a good example for your students. Movable walls support green design and LEED building initiatives. Using movable walls enhances reusability, construction waste management, low-emitting materials and daylight emphasis.
Design options. Paint. Vinyl. Fabric. Wood. Markerboard. Movable walls offer many finish options. Panel faces can be factory painted, installed with vinyl or fabric, wood or erasable steel. The trim can be painted, anodized or wood. Design styles vary tremendously, giving you the freedom to easily adapt the style to complement any learning environment.
Space-saving doors. Most movable walls offer several door options. Reversible pivot door units and frames allow you to switch from left-hand to right-hand doors in the field. Sliding door units provide more physical space in every room since there’s no need to compensate for lost footage due to the door swing into the room.
Recent engineering advances provide superior sound control for movable walls. Better movable wall systems offer sound transmission class (STC) ratings higher than 42. Typical solid standard conventional drywall had a rating of 36 to 42. Sound loss between rooms is no longer a deciding factor between movable walls and conventional drywall construction. Sound won’t carry from classroom to classroom.
Although movable walls may not be the perfect solution for all applications, their flexibility, intelligent engineering, aesthetic options and environmentally sustainable design can be an inspiration. If planned properly in the entire interior construction strategy, a movable wall solution could be an educated move.