Four ways fabric curtain walls can improve energy efficiency

Fabric curtain walls have many benefits for building including increased energy efficiency, controlling dust and debris, and HVAC cooling
By Kyle Justice, Zoneworks October 7, 2013

Fabric curtain walls have many benefits for building including increased energy efficiency, controlling dust and debris, and HVAC cooling. Courtesy: ZoneworksFabric curtain walls have many uses to separate environments within and around the perimeter of industrial buildings, while also offering a simple, quick, inexpensive means of improving energy efficiency.

Many buildings, especially older ones, have open dock areas that are inside or outside the footprint of the building envelope. Not everyone uses the modern dock design of individual dock positions with individual dock doors, etc. These “open” areas introduce cold air or hot air into the building, causing the temperature within to rise or drop. This can be tough on the climate control systems in use, if any.

By enclosing these open dock areas with fabric curtain walls, companies have an easier time keeping the thermostat at a consistent temperature to reduce energy spending. As the seasons change, these types of walls can be designed to open up when weather is more agreeable for full weather and energy control. Additionally, keeping the facility at the proper temperatures usually makes for happier, more productive employees.

Along the same lines, we see many customers introduce HVAC cooling into large areas of their buildings and in some cases, condition the whole footprint. The reasons for this vary from employee comfort and safety, raw material or ingredient requirements, or for specific processes in production areas. With fabric curtain walls, you can effectively set up HVAC temperature zones so that a specific space is receiving the treated air and energy dollars aren’t floating throughout the entire building. By compartmentalizing the square footage, you can be more strategic with HVAC expenditures on an annual basis.

Another area where fabric curtain walls improve energy efficiency is at large grade level door openings or rail dock openings. Many of these larger door openings are too big for fast-acting, high-speed doors and the cost for giant telescoping doors (think airplane hangar size) isn’t in the budget. Keeping traditional doors at these locations is a maintenance headache and a nightmare for the maintenance budget. By utilizing a sliding fabric curtain wall, simple in design, the opening can be blocked off to keep wind and elements from entering the building and lowering or raising the temperature. Controlling air infiltration (wind) is the larger part of the battle in controlling temperature. These simple curtains seal off the openings nicely and the original existing door unit can be kept for security or as an off-hours door as needed.

Lastly, controlling dust and debris, which can migrate into and through a building, shouldn’t be overlooked. This type of contaminant in a building can wreak havoc on HVAC or refrigeration equipment or process equipment that is overly sensitive to foreign matter. By controlling the migration and/or collection points of dust within your building, you allow your HVAC and process equipment to work at a higher efficiency. This saves energy dollars and could prolong the life of the units.

When it comes to saving energy, everyone’s been told to turn off the lights if they’re closing up the shop or to turn off the computer you’re done using for the day. While every little bit helps, for real cost and energy savings, there’s a big opportunity for your plant with fabric curtain walls.

Kyle Justice is vice president of sales for Zoneworks.