What is a curtain wall and how to design it with an architectural BIM software

What is a curtain wall and how to design it with an architectural BIM software

What is a curtain wall and how to design it in few simple steps with a BIM software for the architecture? Here are definition, typologies and benefits.

Definition of curtain wall

A Curtain wall  is a non-structural anchoring system in which vertical and horizontal load elements transfer the imposed loads from the facade to the structure. As an outer non-structural covering of a building it can be made of lightweight material  having all the typical functions of outer walls, such as:

  • resistance to atmospheric agents
  • usage safety
  • environmental control.

This system, however, does not affect the  structural elements of the building. Curtain wall framing members are typically made of lightweight materials adapted to the design requirements, and / or according to the loading stress, wind protection, modular dimensions of the façade and current safety regulations.

The curtain wall features as one of Le Corbusier's Five Points of Architecture, an architecture manifesto of the 20th century (click here to see article).

Assembling the curtain wall

The curtain wall reticular structure with all the cladding elements assembling generally takes place from the outside; at the end of the installation, the reticular structure is invisible and placed within the façade.

Curtain wall example

Curtain wall example

Curtain walls typologies

There are various types of curtain walls. The most common are:

  • with framed structures: consisting of interconnected vertical and horizontal elements to support to the glazed (openable/ fixed) or opaque panels;
  • with independent cells: consisting of a single modular element with a box-like behaviour, including the glazed or opaque cladding elements and the metal substructure, placed by means of precise fixings to the supporting structure;
  • Spider Glass Curtain Walls - Bolted Point Fixed Glazing: made up of fixed post to the building structure to which they will be anchored appropriate supporting elements of the windows (monolithic or double glazing) and / or of the cladding panels. These support elements may be spiders or rotules, located at the corners of the panels.


Curtain walls do provide benefits to the building design even though much of the consideration goes to its aesthetic nature. One of the main benefits that a curtain wall can provide is protecting the underlying structure from atmospheric agents. Furthermore, a curtain wall will give the possibility to have a series of horizontal and vertical non-structural elements cladded with insulating walls or with transparent fixtures. All this allows the architect to no longer have structural constraints but only functional and aesthetical ones.



How to design a curtain wall  with a BIM software



Let's now see how easy and immediate it is to design a curtain wall thanks to a BIM software like Edificius.

We can start off selecting the Curtain Wall object from the Drawing toolbar.

From the right side Properties toolbox we then choose the façade model.


Editing a curtain wall properties with the BIM software Edificius

We can graphically define  the length of the masonry part directly with the mouse.
Alternatively, we can type in the value directly in the right side properties toolbox.
In a few simple and rapid steps, we have seen how easy it is to design a curtain wall with a BIM software.

Click here to find out more about Edificius, the architectural design BIM software, and download the free Trial version