Glaziers Speak Out: On the New Metal Shear Wall Panel Prototype

Engineers from UC Berkeley and the construction industry recently unveiled a prototype of a new kind of steel wall they say is three times stronger than wood-framed walls and has been designed for use in mid-rise residential and commercial buildings (CLICK HERE to read more about it). The steel wall consists of corrugated steel plates fastened to thin, light galvanized steel studs that can be built in sections in a factory or on the job site.

Here's what professionals in the glazing industry know about this new metal shear wall panel:

"I recently read something about this new prototype," said John Myers, technical services executive for Harmon Inc., from his Baltimore office. "Panelized walls using corrugated steel sheeting on a structural steel stud support structure is not new. The Metro West facility of the Social Security Administration here in Baltimore used a panelized wall of this nature in the late 1970s. Greater acceptance of panelized construction and improved ability to engineer panelized walls has made it more available and accepted in our industry. The continued advancements in metal shear wall paneling provide for a more durable and long lasting structure, which would make good sense for use in hurricane-prone and seismic applications."

"More availability of high-performance finishes on the steel sheeting provides a maintenance-free exterior fašade as well," Myers continued. "Using corrugated metal sheet as the exterior or in addition to a separate fašade is important for both additional architectural embellishments to the outside of the corrugated sheets while still maintaining the air/water seal line at the plane of the corrugated sheet for the integrity of the wall."

Khalil Rouhana, vice president of PCC Construction Components in Gaithersburg, Md., said he had not yet reviewed this new prototype. PCC, a glazing contractor serving the greater Washington, D.C., area, specializes in custom architectural curtainwall and high-end metal panel applications. "We are usually up-to-date on the latest innovations in our industry," said Rouhana. "However, nothing has come our way about this new product. Currently, we utilize reinforced composite metal panels for our blast-resistant and security applications and this has worked very well for us."

Mitch Wallace, the senior estimator for Masonry Arts/Physical Security Division, said he had not heard of the product either, but doesn't think he would utilize it for company at this time. "For our blast-resistant applications, we traditionally use laminated glass panels," says Wallace. "To date, this has proven to be the most effective application for our security applications."

While Tom O'Mara, designer for Enclos Corp. in Minneapolis, said he had not heard of the new prototype, either, he said he is not surprised by the development. "There are a lot of innovative products out there that are being developed, released to the market or are being tested in real-life applications," said O'Mara. "While we love the latest and greatest innovations, our clients typically do not care to be the first to utilize any new product until it has a proven track record."

He continued, "Clients typically do not like to try something totally new and just off the shelf. They tend to utilize what has worked in the past, that is cost effective and low risk in terms of liability (time and resources). Laminated glass and aluminum panels are the products we have traditionally used with success in impact-resistant and security applications. The thickness, size and other characteristics of these two products are determined by local, state and federal codes, job mandates and performance-based specifications."

Tell us what you think of these new innovations and if something like this is something that your company would use by visiting the USGlass/USGNN magazine online message boards.

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