With flexibility being a buzzword for Southern California buildings, design tools that allow for the most flexibility are greatly desired by property owners. One of those tools is demountable walls, which can change as space layouts and aesthetic preferences shift, Christopher Mojo, architectural product specialist for Tangram, tells SoCal Real Estate. Mojo penned the following article for us about what to know about demountable walls and several projects in the SoCal market that are using them.
By Christopher Mojo
These days, walls can be so much more than just simple space dividers. The vertical real estate they provide can make significant contributions from both design and structural standpoints. A popular and highly practical alternative to standard construction that provides the most opportunity to fully utilize this once-forgotten vertical plane is demountable walls. With the rise of open workspaces, these systems can contribute significantly to a workplace’s flexibility in responding to changing needs not only in space layouts, but acoustics, technology, and aesthetics.
Aesthetic and Structural Considerations
A fundamental question to start with is understanding the intent behind the design.
Demountable walls can reinforce the overall architectural aesthetic, with a fit and finish that’s difficult to attain with standard glazier or drywall offerings. They come in a wide array of materials and finishes that include fabric-wrapped panels, wood veneers, clear glass or switchable panels, painted steel, and ceramic whiteboards. Framing is typically steel or aluminum, with attractive paint or anodization finishes. Many systems can even be customized.
They can be relocated to new locations of similar dimensions with minimal to no damage to the site or employee relocation. This inherent adaptability can save time and expense in the future to accommodate changes in door and panel types, office sizes, and desired glazing. Many demountable wall systems can also integrate technology such as monitors and screens, room-reservation systems, card readers, and switchable glass.
Surrounding Environment Matters
The fundamental goal, of course, is to find the best wall solution that combines the desired aesthetics, functionality, and cost.
Often overlooked, however, is what’s being built around the demountable-wall system. The success of demountable walls will always depend on the built conditions around them. For example, important acoustic factors to determine include the properties of the surrounding stick-built partitions, the prevalence of any ductwork running between rooms that may transfer sound, and the type of ceiling to be installed overhead. It wouldn’t make much sense to invest in a double-glazed wall system for boosted acoustics if partitions between rooms aren’t built up to the same acoustical standard.
Teamwork That Pays Off
A common mistake is to leave decisions on walls until late in the design and specification process. As with standard stick-built partitions, demountable systems are an integral element in achieving the vision for each project. The wall-solutions provider should be pulled in early in order to provide important insights for the design and construction teams to help ensure accuracy of bids and minimal changes along the way.
Once a project is sent to bid, the wall specialist will usually then collaborate directly with the general contractor to provide information and pricing for the project. It’s a proven process that streamlines communication with other trades and can reduce or avoid overruns in terms of cost and schedule.
New Ideas to Consider
We’re seeing some exciting trends in the utilization of demountable wall systems. The replication of the classic industrial, black steel, factory-window aesthetic in a refined, contemporary context utilizing engineered demountable walls is becoming more prevalent on projects throughout the Southern California region. Another trend led by manufacturers of these systems is to “future-proof” designs by incorporating the flexibility to anticipate new technologies such computerized glass panels and VR/AI.
Here are three examples of demountable wall installations and the products that were used:
Alexandria Real Estate in San Diego specializes in owning, operating and developing life science and technology campuses. A custom Muraflex MIMO wall features recyclable aluminum frames.
Bolo Corporation, a Costa Mesa, California–based real estate development firm, utilized the vertical intelligent architecture wall from Steelcase designed to integrate technology and provide acoustical privacy.
Illumina in San Diego is a leader in genomics and next-generation sequencing solutions. Muraflex MIMO demountable wall was installed at its i3 Campus.