Published: Jan 1962
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Before the development of the skeleton frame in the late nineteenth century, exterior building walls, traditionally of masonry, were utilized structurally as load-bearing supports. When this structural action of the walls was taken over by the skeleton frame, the walls evolved into only curtains of protection against wind and weather. Thus, the modern trend towards lightweight curtain wall enclosures is one logical adjunct to skeleton framing. While skeleton framing permits considerable architectural freedom as to the openness of building elevations (reaching a climax in the complete glass enclosure), there may be functional, aesthetic, and technical reasons for considerable opaque wall areas. The economically minded will observe that the concentration of stress from shallow flexural members and pointbearing of columns in skeleton frames lead to unnecessary structural severity, while opaque wall areas will permit deep flexural systems and load-bearing elements. Further, since much of interior wall construction is opaque, such areas can be exploited structurally for racking or shear resistance. The purpose of this paper is to describe the testing of clay masonry curtain walls assembled from prefabricated panels to show how such panel systems may be useful structurally for flexural, compressive, and shear action in building construction where skeleton framing may be partially or entirely eliminated. Provided sufficient ingenuity is employed in joining them properly, structural panel systems may prove more economical than skeleton framing when the use of the latter concentrates stresses. For many moderately sized buildings not over 6 or 7 (20 ft) bays in either direction, at least one-third of the columns and one-fourth of the beams are to be found in the exterior wall. For smaller buildings, the proportion approaches 50 per cent in the exterior walls. While it is conceded that the exterior framing is subject to roughly one-half the loading of interior framing, nevertheless, this analysis suggests that the use of structural curtain wall systems should have a significant influence on over-all framing costs.
Monk, C. B.
Manager of Architectural and Engineering Research, Structural Clay Products Research Foundation, Geneva, Ill.