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.

Glass Partitions

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.

Toilet Partitions

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:


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.



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.

Fire protection partition of RCC

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.


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.

Open Office – Panel partition system

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.

Sliding Partitions –Shiroshoin Nishi Honganji


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.

Folding partition



WALLS and Buildings

Post 244 – by Gautam Shah



A wall is a planner structure, generally vertical, with a proportionately narrow thickness in comparison to its height and length. It is a barrier system, like fences, barricades, partitions, etc, and used for dividing or enclosing a space. Its most distinguishing function has to bear the load. It bears its own weight -the self load, and also other imposed loads of the super structures or sideways thrusts. Walls ultimately transfer all the loads, own and imposed loads or thrusts to the earth. One of the most efficient load transfer systems to the earth is in perpendicular direction to the gravity. As a result, in all structure compositions, the vertical walls predominate.

Walls of Stairs Kolkata India

Allen Lambert Galleria Toronto an atriumspace by Santiago Calatrava that connects several heritage buildings along the side of it Wikipedia Image by Secondarywaltz

Imposed loads on walls emanate from other structural systems of the buildings, such as floors and roofs, beams, services, etc. and from the occupancy of these systems, like ‘live’ loads of people, flora, fauna, goods, storage utilities. Thrusts from within the structures are transferred by the walls to other bearing elements, or resisted and converted into a gravity bearing vertical component. These loads include from arches, beams, vaults, etc. Thrusts also bear upon the wall due to the lateral resistance provided to other elements such as water, grains, sand, soil, etc. and retained liquids or gases. Walls also endure pressures arising due to dynamic movements of live loads and shifting dead loads, earthquakes, and energy vibrations of sound, wind, etc.

metal-glass facadesWalls carry distributed loads, but frequently loads concentrated at a point induce local stresses and failures. Walls also fail, under excessive distributed loads, at its weakest section, get crushed or deformed depending on its homogeneity. When a wall has width equal to or less than its length, it becomes a column, and loses its meaning. Moreover, a wall that has a height equal or less than its width, remains an in-fill course or a layer only. Walls without any external down bearing imposed loads are called partition walls.

Uppsala cathedral wall

A wall carrying only side-thrust is called a retaining wall. A wall which carries the load of upper structure and also retains earth is an abutment wall. A gravity wall resists the side thrust of retained material by its dead weight. Gravity walls primarily have a trapezoidal section, with wider part forming the base. Cantilever retaining walls have ‘L’ or inverted ‘T’ section. A buttressed wall has additional intermittent pieces of lateral walls on the open face, to strengthen the mass. A counter-fort wall has a similar system (often as a structure in tension) on the inside or the loading face.

Wall Hazara Rama temple Hampi, Karnataka India Wikipedia Image by Ms Sarah Welch

Tabo Gompa - old walls and chortens Wikipedia Image by John Hill

Retaining Walls

Walls as barriers resist variety of forces or energies. A translucent to opaque wall can reduce light transmission. A wall of an absorbent material and geometric configuration is used in attuning sounds. Latticed walls as barriers filter out select elements. Small height walls are used as compound or estate walls and as parapets. Dispersed vertical linear elements used as non-continuous barricade function like walls. Curtain walls are rigid membranes that envelopes a building to protect it from winds and rains and many instances bear the surface shears.

Wall of Porta San Giovanni Wikipedia image by


Walls are ‘loaded’ along and across the width section, and sometimes along the length-section. To bear a load, a wall is expected to have adequate surface cross sectional area in a plane parallel to the gravity. These surface component are made of width and length of the wall. Theoretically, a wall can have an infinite length and single size module of width. Nominal walls however, are required to bear a variety of loads, thrusts and stresses. So walls need some sectional depth, depending on the integrity or homogeneity and strength of its materials, in addition to the geometric formation and composition. Height of a wall is a finite element, though theoretically a wall could be infinitely tall. A tall wall, proportionally, turns into a slender structural entity. Wind and other vibrations over the surface of a tall or slender wall are random (stochastic) motions. These cause dynamic effects in many different directions. So even if depth (thickness) of the wall due to high integrity of material, composition or geometry, can bear the loads, the transmission of loads to the ground is not harmonic or consistent.

Walls of Red Fort Delhi India

Walls of Hyderabad (Pakistan) Fort -Pacco Qillo Wikipedia Image by MUrad Ali Shah BukeraiVery thin walls are used in shells, domes, tanks, plates and membrane structures such as balloons. These are often called shell or membrane structures depending on their structural transmission. These structures often have indistinguishable wall and roof elements. A shell structure is classed as compressive structure, whereas a membrane structure like a balloon is classified as tensile structure. Thin structures are used for their light weight and economy. Membranes are thin and pliable materials or formed by ‘bloating’ or stretching a material along its plane. Membranes ‘wall’ or surfaces can carry well-distributed loads, but are incapable of taking any pointed loads, unless material is tear or puncture resistant. Boat sails and circus tents are examples of membrane structures. When a hard, homogeneous and rigid material is used for creating a thin wall structure it is called a plate or shell structure.

Walls of wonky brick building crooked old masonry house

Walls of Cooling tower at Thermal poer station Neyveli, Tamil Nadua India Wikipedia Image by NLC India Ltd.

Sail Ship -a membrane wall

 Walls of space vehicles and stations in outer space have few superimposed loads on the walls (once far beyond the nominal gravitational zone) however, if gets converted into stresses. The stresses ultimately result into some form of kinetic energy disturbing the equilibrium of the craft or station. To maintain the equilibrium (position and location), occasionally course-correcting boosters are fired.

Coventry Cathedral Ruins Flickr ImageOpenings like doors and windows, and provisions like niches, alcoves, weaken a wall, structurally and visually. For reasons of load-bearing capacity of a structure, openings at lower level must be fewer of smaller width. Lower sections of structures, however, have lesser solar exposure, so more openings are required. Openings are placed one above the other so as to leave uninterrupted vertical wall masses to transfer loads directly to the ground.

Dissolved Walls Day time - Night time