An aluminum window wall system is a system where a wall is covered with aluminum framed glazing. This system can contain aluminum doors or windows integrated within or can be designed as a fixed façade system. Aluminum window wall systems are the systems commonly used in skyscrapers and high rise residential or office buildings. Aluminum is a contemporary material which became widespread after mid-19th century especially with the gaining popularity of modernism. What modernism did was groundbreaking which was to separate structural elements such as columns and beams and façade elements. The columns and the beams were no longer required to be observed on the façade. They were rather pulled inside the building giving the chance to complete freedom on façade. Highly transparent and lightweight appearing aluminum window wall systems attracted attention more afterwards. A famous example to this is the Farnsworth House of Mies van der rohe with the fully glass façade. This project was highly controversial with its usage of aluminum window wall systems for a single floor residential unit.
Coming towards post-modernism this flexibility conquered the contemporary architecture once it was stripped off the systematical rules and obligations of modernism. The iconic façade of Centre Pompidou can be given as an example to this. This project is an example of the flexibility window wall systems embody as what we know in architecture was folded inside out in the hands of Renzo Piano in Centre Pompidou. Because the circulation elements became the façade in that project.
Therefore, aluminum window wall systems can be defined as the façade configuration that is done using aluminum frame and support elements with glass or similar panel glazing.
The main reason for aluminum window wall systems to be preferred is its lightness. In architecture, for a building to be structurally intact it needs to be as lightweight as it can be in order to be able to bend against lateral forces. Concrete structures are heavier than steel and aluminum materials, therefore as the floor count rises the total weight increases exponentially. Basically, for a high rise building or a skyscraper aluminum plus glass façade systems are almost obligatory.
Another strong reason to use aluminum window wall systems is the flexibility feature mentioned above. Aluminum window wall systems can be integrated with a lot of things creating and endless combinations of façade designs. Other than well known window and door integrations, the system can also be combined with other materials such as natural stone, wood and even ceramics.
The companies offering innovative solutions using aluminum and glass are on the right path in this sense. Strong and appealing aluminum window and door systems and structures are needed in current building configurations and are essential in today’s façade terminology. Especially for ground level solutions well-designed aluminum window and door systems will be advantageous. For commercial areas located on the ground floor of a high rise building, systems that can be integrated with the existing façade aluminum system will be preferable.