Operable Walls Let Fresh Air Into Your Storefront

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operable walls

Are you familiar with Operable Walls? Every business owner is looking for long-term solutions to prevent future pandemic closures. This means not only modified business models and services but sometimes includes upgraded facilities. Most cities and towns have commercial areas where businesses find themselves in storefront spaces. Typically these are glass fronted spaces because it is well researched that retail spending increases in day-lit environments.

Reducing interior partitions and allowing air to flow through these spaces from front to back and or side to side is a fabulous and easy solution for increasing air flow. Except that many of these facilities do not include operable facades. The (typically) single entry door is often beside a very large window wall that doesn’t open. A retractable roof or skylight would help (a-lot) but thats not always possible. So what can owners do?

It is a reality that typical commercial facades are fairly basic glass walls - called "storefront". Sometimes in line with a historic facade, often as part of a low cost commercial building block. Some modern, some not… all fixed glass. Whether the glass is frosted, clear, in large panes, with one door or two, none of them open up. There are multiple suppliers of storefront in all provinces and states. Their offerings are similar.

However expectations as we know have changed with the onset of Covid-19…. It is now very important to naturally ventilate businesses with large volumes of fresh air for the healthy and safety of staff and clients. The volume of people in a restaurant or retail store, means that it is necessary to open up walls to keep air moving in and out of a space at a large volume so that infection rates can be minimized.

There is actually an easy solution for opening up the front or side facade of your business. It sounds simple and in most cases it is. It involves opening up the walls and replacing fixed glass with glass that moves.

Three Things To Consider About Operable Walls

  1. Should the new wall opening be walkable?
    In other words should staff and guests be able to enter and exit through the wall when its open or is there a reason that a railing might be included in the operable wall? This might be due to the type of business or perhaps a second floor location etc. There are many reasons why a wall may or may not become a walking passage. Its fairly easy to make sure a new open wall either opens to become a railing or includes a railing element.
  2. Should the wall be manual or motorized?
    You have the option to have a wall open via the flick of a switch, or via a manual window or door. Depending on the size and number of doors/windows and the way they open, a motorized system can be an excellent solution, with less risk of human error and breakage. This makes the most sense in a larger format opening or where a larger piece of glass is to move. The manual options of sliding doors and folding (bi-fold) doors are great for standard height spaces with smaller openings. Sliding doors are great for taller heights, bi fold doors have more limited height options.
  3. How do you want the wall(s) to open?
    Up down, left right, folding, sliding etc… There are multiple options for how to open a wall, each option includes operations, maintenance, cost, safety, egress, height, width and other considerations.

operable wallsA typical door and or window company can supply a large variety of manual window and door options. The options for sliding or bifold doors are many. If however you are looking for a motorized system there are fewer options. The benefits of a motorized system is that large panes of glass can be raised, lowered pivoted or can slide out of the way at the pust of a button. No risk for operator error.   

OpenAire is the ideal supplier for moving and operable walls. Typically oversized and unique in location, OpenAire not only opens roofs but also walls. Whether its an oversized wall sliding left to right or a motorized window series that drops down to become a railing, we have developed a series of solutions. 

The newest series of motorized operable walls from OpenAire are light frame horizontal panels, where the top two panels slide down and become a railing. Found initially on various cruise ship projects with Royal Caribbean, these operable walls have been modified to suit smaller commercial environments. There are over 15 of these doors on the newly renovated Westin Bear Mountain Resort; Masters Lounge in Victoria BC.

Contact our team to find out more.


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