Post 255 –by Gautam Shah
A partition wall is generally a non-load-bearing element, except in an emergency when it may temporarily carry a load or stress. A partition wall could be an internal unit designed to divide spaces to form separate rooms, circulation spaces and enclose services or ducts. External partition walls enclose a space, provide a barricade, be a decorative surface appendage, or provide massive effect to linear elements like columns or slab edges.
Partition walls do many other things besides dividing or separating. Partitions are intervening elements, so have dual personality. Open partitions as mid space dividers have both faces with nearly identical functionality. Some partitions however, abut an entity as a skin, on the verge of becoming part of it, have two faces, but each one serving a different purpose. Panellings and cover walls, are very similar to partition walls. Claddings fixed without an intervening cavity are not partition systems. Panellings and cover walls are dependent entities and do not need lateral stability.
Partition systems are full height touching both the floor and ceiling, or part height, touching either the floor or ceiling. Free from the floor partitions are used where floor cleaning is frequent (toilets, dressing booths, shower stalls) and where a gap at floor level helps movement of air. Upper level free partitions are used for ventilation and visual continuity at ceiling level. Partition systems are fixed or relocatable. Collapsible or folding partitions have an accordion like arrangement or fold up like the window blinds.
Partition systems can be categorized in following manner:
FRAME AND COVER SYSTEMS
This consists of a frame matrix or grid supported all around, and covered by a sheet material. Frame grids are designed considering the architectural character, the framing material’s commercial sizes and sheeting material’s size, but always accommodating the panel joints over the frame section. The sheeting material may not reveal any part of the frame, but a well-designed system could, through the joint lines reveal the character of the frame matrix. Such systems could be a single side, provided the non-sheeted side is unimportant or the frame matrix is well modulated. Frames in such partitions need to have lateral or sideways stability depending on the extent of the surface negotiated between structural elements like wall, column or another partition at an angle. Frame and cover systems are easy to build (but not necessarily economic) yet government departments lacking imagination go for it. These partition systems need seam closing at free ends.
Materials for framing are wood, mild steel or aluminium sections. For concealed framing often unfinished or raw timbers are used. Sheet materials for covering are plywood, hardboard, MDF, particle boards, chip boards, metal’s plain, corrugated or embossed sheets, cement fibre sheets, paper boards, glass, cellophane, plastics, composites, fabrics, woven mats, palm leaves and reeds.
STUD AND IN-FILL SYSTEMS
These partition systems have studs (a vertical member) fixed at top and bottom. Studs are generally independent of each other, but sometimes are interconnected with one or more horizontal ‘spacer or tie’ members. The studs are stabilized by the in-fill material, along the direction of partition, but need to have stability of their own in cross direction. The studs are spaced according to the width of in-fill material, but spaced to provide a stable system. Studs become visible on both sides, placing the in-fill material at mid section. Studs are less dominant where in-fill materials are fixed as flushed on one side. Studs are also totally covered by a running sheeting material on both sides.
Stud materials include sawn wood sections, wood logs, Mild steel and aluminium extruded, folded and fabricated sections, PVC extruded sections, stone pillars, precast RCC units, and also laterally placed sections of in-fill materials, and taut ropes of steel or fibres. The In-fill materials could be: stretched membranes, fabrics, plastics, composites, pliable materials like metal sheets, or stiff materials like plywood, block board, MDF, wood composite boards, stones, glass, timber planks and grills.
PANEL UNIT SYSTEMS
These consist of small elemental panel units which are placed in or over a frame system, positioned edge to edge but fixed to top and bottom parts of the structure, or fixed edge to edge. Panels are preformed, composite, dimensionally modulated, and multi-functional units. The panel may be with seams on side edges, or framed to cover-tucked in edges. Panel systems are used for creating ‘open office plan’ layouts, exhibition display systems, information kiosks, etc. Panel units have butt or snap-on or hinge joint systems on the edges. Panel units are usually self supporting systems, through layout geometry, but in very extensive partitioning, frame and panel systems are formed. The panels are also fixed directly to the floor and to the ceiling or beam bottom through channel or stud receptacles.
Panels are multi layered sandwich composites with hollowed inner core and different finishes on either side. Dimensional modulation of 100mm or 300mm is very common. Top finishes of many varieties are available like: fabric, paper, wood, plastics, stainless steel, glass, and painted, screens printed, embossed or coated.
FOLDING AND SLIDING SYSTEMS
Folding partitions consists of modulated units, which fold together or a construction of linear members that collapse (lift doors). Sometimes the panels are demountable, so removed completely and stored separately (storm shutters). Sliding partitions are mounted on a track or a channel, at top, bottom or both. A combined sliding and folding partition have sections of small width. Folding partitions are used as part height space dividers or isolators, in homes, offices and heath care facilities.