Architect’s Corner: Enhancing Design Aesthetics

Demountable Wall Solutions Offer Versatility & Style

by Gregg Johnson, light-construction manager, Tangram

(Editor’s Note:  Gregg Johnson serves as light-construction manager for the flooring team at Tangram.  With over 17 years of construction management experience, his role is essential to leading tenant improvement and construction projects within the Tangram flooring division.)

Walls are an often overlooked, yet vital, element in the overall scheme of interior environments from both a structural and design perspective.  However, rather than treating them solely as spatial dividers, they deserve as much care and attention as any other design element of a project.  One solution to this oversight that offers significant advantages over standard construction is demountable walls.  These solutions have a wide range of applications, especially in the rapid adoption of open and modular workspaces, by offering the flexibility to adapt to changing requirements easily over time.

         When utilizing demountable wall products, it is most beneficial to bring the wall provider into a project as early as possible.  This way, they can assist in the specification process directly and work with the architect/design team to make sure details are accurate and most closely reflect the design intent prior to being sent to bid. 

         Once the project is sent to bid, however, the wall specialist will typically shift to working directly with the general contractor on the project as a subcontractor, directing all pricing and information requests through them.  This approach offers many benefits, not least of which is allowing for more streamlined communications between the wall provider and other trades, such as framers, drywall, painters, flooring, etc., that directly affect their scope.  This approach reduces potential mistakes and helps to avoid costly impacts to the project schedule.

         The right demountable wall solutions are engineered and designed with details in mind, so they integrate seamlessly into the overall architectural aesthetic curated by the designer.  Using a demountable solution for interior office glazed and solid partitions provides an added level of fit and finish that can’t easily be achieved with standard glazier or drywall offerings.  These wall options offer designers numerous layout and finish options as well as many that may be customized to differing extents in order to achieve the overall aesthetic intended.  In fact, many wall systems are designed to be focal pieces in an otherwise standard installation.

         One of the greatest beauties of demountable partitions is that they are not structural.  Demountable systems are designed to be non-permanent, allowing them to be inherently flexible and capable of being taken down and moved to other similarly dimensioned locations as needed with minimal to no damage to the site.

         Many systems are also designed to allow for the potential of day-two changes.  As workplace needs evolve over time, many demountable wall solutions can adapt along with them to save time and expense later.  Changes like office sizes, panel types, glazing thicknesses, and door types can be handled quickly, without affecting the overall system.  That can mean little-to-no demo waste and no need to relocate employees.

         The most important factor to have in mind when specifying a demountable wall system is to identify the driving force behind the need for such a solution.  Is the decision being driven by a need for enhanced acoustics, better fit and finish, hosting of technology, increased flexibility, or perhaps all of the above?

         Different wall products have different strengths, of course.  Many perform in some situations or achieve certain aesthetic goals better than others while varying in price points depending on those needs.  Having a solid idea of what is to be achieved by using a demountable partition solution from the outset provides an effective starting point for determining the right product with the right aesthetic at the right price point for the budget.  However, even when those strengths are taken into account, the most often overlooked factors that affect the success or failure of a demountable system have more to do with what is being built around the wall system than the wall system itself. 

         What are the acoustical properties of the surrounding stick-built partitions?  What type of ceiling is being installed and how is it acoustically detailed?  Is the ductwork for the HVAC system isolated or does it connect room-to-room allowing sound to transfer between?  Demountable walls can only perform as well as the built conditions that surround them.  For example, specifying a double-glazed wall system won’t have the intended impact on the acoustics of a space if there are air gaps above the ceiling.

         Demountable wall systems offer a multitude of options to choose from when it comes to finishes and materials.  This selection includes everything from standard, clear, tempered glass to the possibility of integrating switchable glass panes, from painted steel panels to ceramic whiteboards, from fabric-wrapped panels to wood veneers.  There are countless finish options regardless of the system that is chosen, and working with a wall specialist early on can help determine what is right for your design.  Also, most wall systems are framed using either steel or aluminum structures that can be outfitted from a multitude of different, beautiful paint or anodized finishes, depending on the aesthetic intended to achieve.

         Preferred demountable wall products can host a wide range of technological applications and systems.  Many systems have the potential to host options ranging from switchable glass to room reservation systems to card readers and integrated TV monitors.  Depending on your technological needs, designers can most often tailor a demountable solution that provides functionality without detracting from the design.  Important considerations related to technology integration are another reason that a wall solutions provider should work with the design team early on to coordinate whatever technology needs a client may require.

         Demountable wall systems are a highly versatile choice for reinforcing aesthetic intent, while providing advantages, such as better fit and finish and acoustical privacy, that are inherent within an engineered system. 

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