United Facade

Lifespan of Window Wall Systems

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Lifespan of Window Wall Systems

The lifespan of window wall systems can vary depending on several factors, including the quality of materials, proper installation, maintenance practices, environmental conditions, and usage patterns. In general, well-designed and well-maintained window wall systems can have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years or even longer.

Here are some key factors that can impact the lifespan of window wall systems:

Materials: The quality of materials used in the window wall system, such as aluminum frames, glass, sealants, and insulation, can greatly influence its durability and longevity. High-quality materials that are resistant to weathering, corrosion, and degradation tend to have a longer lifespan.

Installation: Proper installation is crucial for the longevity of window wall systems. If the installation is done correctly, ensuring a secure and weather-tight fit, it can contribute to the system’s longevity. Improper installation can lead to issues such as water infiltration, air leakage, and structural instability, which may significantly reduce the lifespan of the system.

Maintenance: Regular maintenance is important to preserve the performance and extend the lifespan of window wall systems. This includes cleaning the glass and frames, inspecting and replacing worn-out gaskets or seals, and addressing any signs of damage or deterioration promptly. Proper maintenance helps prevent issues from escalating and ensures the system remains in good condition over time.

Environmental Conditions: The environmental conditions to which the window wall system is exposed can affect its lifespan. Factors such as extreme temperatures, humidity, UV exposure, pollution, and corrosive elements can accelerate wear and tear. Window wall systems in harsh climates or areas with high pollution levels may require more frequent maintenance and have a shorter lifespan compared to systems in milder environments.

Usage and Stress: The usage and stress placed on the window wall system can impact its lifespan. Systems that experience frequent opening and closing, high wind loads, vibrations, or other forms of stress may require more frequent inspections and maintenance to ensure their longevity.

How Can You Fix Your Window Wall System?

A window wall system that does not exhibit any of the mentioned issues may still have a considerable remaining useful service life, provided that ongoing maintenance is carried out. On the other hand, if a window wall system has experienced persistent and widespread failures that have resulted in significant deterioration of the surrounding walls, it is evident that replacement is necessary as part of a comprehensive repair program that addresses all building envelope components. However, when the condition of a window wall falls somewhere between these two scenarios, determining whether to replace or refurbish the system and determining the appropriate timing for the work can be more challenging.

Does the window wall system pose any life safety risks?

If the structural integrity of the window wall system and its connection to the building’s primary structure is compromised, it is crucial to take prompt action to ensure the safety of occupants and the public. If required, temporary measures should be implemented to restore a secure system while a permanent solution is devised. In cases where window wall frames are unable to withstand environmental loads, refurbishing them in a cost-effective or practical manner is generally not feasible, and replacement is often necessary. If the concern pertains to the anchoring of the window wall, it is advisable to consult with an engineer to develop an upgraded anchoring design that allows for the reuse of the existing window wall system.

Does the window wall system leak water?

Occasional leaks in a window wall system can be addressed through targeted repairs, especially if the source is easily identifiable, such as a failed sealant on the interior surface of the frame. However, if the leaks are impacting the wall or floor below, it suggests inadequate waterproofing of the rough opening, necessitating the removal of the window wall system for repairs. This repair work would also involve implementing new waterproofing details in the rough opening to prevent future leaks. In cases where leaks occur systemically and frequently, it may indicate a construction flaw inherent in the system itself, such as poor drainage, which can be challenging to rectify.

Is it worth fixing the existing window wall system or buying a new one?              

Each time a window wall system is manipulated or modified, it places additional stress on the seals and glass, which can lead to frame distortion. When considering whether to refurbish or replace a window wall system, it is essential to assess the associated risks alongside factors such as the cost of purchasing new systems, the remaining lifespan of the existing system after refurbishment, and the need to coordinate with other renewals, such as adjacent cladding. It’s important to note that modern window wall systems differ significantly from those used in the 1990s. Therefore, it may be beneficial to extend the lifespan of the existing system on one elevation until the need for replacement arises across all elevations. This approach allows for a more comprehensive and coordinated replacement strategy.

Is the window wall system affected by more than one problem?

While it may be technically feasible to address multiple issues through a refurbishment program, the associated costs can often be prohibitive. In situations where structural problems or water leakage coexist with issues such as poor acoustical performance, peeling paint finish on the frame, numerous failed insulated glass units (IGUs), or significant heat loss, opting for a new window wall system is usually the most effective solution. This approach ensures that all the identified issues are comprehensively resolved, providing improved performance and avoiding the potential limitations and complexities that may arise from attempting to refurbish multiple components.

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