Architecture & Design, Construction, and Real Estate

Moveable interior walls create answers

September 18, 2014
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Moveable interior walls create answers
A moveable interior wall is used to create a large high-rise office. Courtesy Interphase Interiors

While moveable walls have been around for a while, they aren't always the go-to for facility managers and planners. Before you swing another hammer, consider these four questions.

Future re-configuration

Between the changing generational makeup of our workplaces and the ways that employees like to work, the overall footprint of our offices is changing. Since no one truly has a crystal ball to see what the future of their organization will look like, why not turn to the unlimited potential of moveable walls? With one initial cost up front, the private offices that are needed today for managers and executives can be moved in unlimited ways to form conference spaces, or even create separation for multiple collaborative areas. There couldn't be a better solution for property managers building out for tenant. When it’s time to change the layout of a space for a new tenant, moveable walls allow the same investment made for the original build-out to be re-used, with only the additional cost of furniture installers changing the configuration. Many movable walls offer panels that are stand-alone and allow a single panel to be removed and replaced, or doors to change location without taking all the walls down. On the reverse side, it is important to consider that conventional construction will cost less at the start up, and there are some spaces that do not allow for standardized sizes to be used when designing moveable walls. How soon will you need to change the space?

Design aesthetics

Moveable walls offer a modern appearance that has character, high-end design and the ability to mix materials and surfaces. While clear stories, frameless glass, marker boards, and quality wall finishes are offered with traditional construction, they come with a price tag and are dependent upon the contractor’s abilities. Moveable walls manufactured in a controlled manufacturing facility utilize technology to build a greater level of detail into wall panels at a lower price on average. Conventional construction usually limits the use of clearstory and full glass walls due to the complexity and cost. The sacrifice is valuable daylight, which has been proven to improve your mood and thus may have an effect on overall employee productivity and workplace happiness. Manufacturers offer a variety of standard wall systems made entirely of frameless glass or clearstory panels that make it easy and more cost effective to offer this upscale option. Is high design desired or important to my application?

Sustainability

If green building is your goal, moveable walls are a clear choice when it comes to eliminating waste to landfills. Let’s face it, traditional stud and drywall walls don’t move on their own. If a change is desired, they must be completely removed, which means a construction crew, a dumpster, and a lot of dust to remove and even more to put up new. This is not exactly green. Moveable walls, on the other hand, come down quickly and without a lot of disturbance to the occupants, and without a lot of cleanup. On a 10-foot-by-15-foot office, one global manufacturer advertises that 110 pounds of waste is generated with standard construction, but their moveable walls system would only produce 18 pounds. After reconfiguring that same office, standard construction produced 886 more pounds of waste, while the moveable wall change only produced an additional three pounds of waste. The answer seems obvious on sustainability when it comes to moveable walls vs. conventional building. Many manufacturers even offer green building certifications on their products. Is sustainability a factor?

Occupancy timeline

When traditional stud-built walls are selected for a building there are as many as seven trades to coordinate the build-out. Moveable walls simplify the process by allowing ceiling and flooring trades to install their systems to the perimeter walls. Moveable walls are then brought in and tilted in place. Wall systems come standard with power and data capabilities, needing only to be hardwired into the building power either through the perimeter walls or through floor boxes. Imagine the time savings recognized if ceiling and flooring is all you have to coordinate to have walls in your space. Lead-times for many moveable walls have been cut down to six weeks or less for manufacturing and will be delivered to site ready to go in a matter of days or hours rather than months of building. How fast do you need walls?

Regardless of the project, you will need an expert and it is best to engage early to determine the best solution, establish a budget and set a schedule. Moveable walls aren’t for everyone, but they do offer a great deal of movability, design, sustainability and can cut occupancy time on your next project.  

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