Operable walls: where the rubber meets the mullion



The architecture that surrounds an operable wall often determines its acoustical success. There are standard guides for detailing operable walls; however, these offer a rigid take on design aesthetics. Abstracting these principles into general goals, the designer can accommodate a variety of architectural styles. The surrounding construction should act as a safety net by providing labyrinths when seals fail or by blocking problematic flanking paths. The architecture should also ease system operation allowing users to deploy the operable wall with minimal fail rate. This paper compares several off-the-shelf and custom systems, highlighting the importance of construction details and coordination and their impact on the installed product performance. The architecture can only support these systems to a degree and the designer should select an operable system that works within the given conditions.  By comparing design trends in operable walls from an acoustical consultant standpoint, this paper will spotlight architecturally harmonious systems as well as several system features to be aware of when evaluating options.