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Types of Fenestration

A Brief History on the Different Types of Fenestration

There’s always much more than what meets the eye when it comes to the different types of fenestration. In addition to the traditional window and exterior doors, a fenestration system can include any system that features an opening designed to:

  • Provide passage
  • Offer weather protection from external elements 
  • Allow light in from one space to another

This more expansive, modernized definition of a fenestration system includes systems like skylights, indoor windows, outdoor windows, and more. 

At Frank Lowe, we offer the capabilities and expertise to efficiently and quickly produce fenestration components of all sizes. We are the leading one-stop-shop for custom fenestration components and products. 

Let’s explore different types of fenestration products and systems. Continue reading to learn more about some of the most basic types of fenestration systems and products.

The History of Fenestration Systems & Window Types

Before the 1900s in the United States, most windows were made with wood frames. While there were some iron, steel, and bronze types of engineered systems in production, this wasn’t the primary practice. 

Across the pond around the 1900s, British manufacturers started using rolled steel shapes to create unique rail profiles for windows. Two of the larger British steel window companies started manufacturing facilities to develop rolled steel windows in the U.S., which was a valued upgrade over the practice of using wood. 

Following catastrophic fires in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Baltimore; new building regulations restricted the use of wood and other types of combustible materials in construction.

The Evolution of Fenestration Systems

After World War II, the technology for extruding steel and aluminum frames for windows gained a significant amount of popularity. In the 1990s, approximately 65% of the commercial window market included aluminum-framed windows. 

The remaining 35% of the market consisted of steel-framed windows, vinyl-framed windows, and windows with a wood frame for improved thermal performance and security.

Glazing Types of Fenestration Systems

Glass has been used as a building envelope for many years. Unlike solid metal panels, window and glazing systems protect from the weather while allowing sunlight into the structure.

In the 1950s, the creation of the float glass process made way for the mass production of high-quality flat glass. This design represents how the majority of architectural glass is created today.

Today, virtually all new skylights, curtain walls, and windows for commercial buildings and residential homes will feature some element of glazing for additional comfort and energy efficiency.

Sloped Glazing & Skylight Types of Fenestration Products

For more than 100 years, skylights have been used to provide beautiful flashes of brilliant daylight. Older skylight systems were made up of plate glass situated in metal frames

These original skylights incorporated both a decorative diffuser interior as well as welcomed exterior light. Today, most skylights are made up of insulating glazing captured in aluminum frames that are offered in a range of modern configurations.

Curtain Walls Types of Fenestration

Curtain walls are any exterior wall attached to the building structure. While curtain walls can include precast concrete panels and brick veneer, these structures do not carry any roof or floor loads of the building.

Curtain wall systems clad a building envelope with aluminum and glass to protect the inside of the building from the elements and create a safe environment for building occupants. Curtain walls are designed to resist water, resist air infiltration, and resist sway caused by seismic forces and wind.

Curtain Walls Do Not Carry Weight

It’s important to understand curtain walls are only designed to carry their weight — not roof loads. Curtain walls typically span from floor to floor, span across multiple floors, or are used in punched opening applications.

Key Considerations for Curtain Walls

Curtain walls should consider various design facets, such as:

  • Water diversion
  • Thermal expansion and contraction
  • Building movement and sway
  • Thermal efficiency for cost-effective cooling, heating, and lighting in the building.

Window Walls Types of Fenestration

Window walls have emerged as an alternative design feature to the standard curtain wall. Window walls are innovative solutions designed to meet the market requirements of ventilation, aesthetics, cost, flexibility, and speed.

Window Walls Have Increasing Residential Applications

A growing trend in mid to high-rise new construction has shifted to using window walls in more mixed-use and residential applications. And since people want living spaces with a more residential feel, window walls allow for these design elements, such as:

  • Sliding glass doors
  • Terrace glass doors
  • Various ventilating styles
  • Projected casements

Window Walls Improve Sound Attenuation

Unlike curtain walls, window walls bolster sound attenuation by reducing continuous members spanning the height of the buildings. While curtain walls can resonate sounds that start at lower levels and emit them through the interior tube, window walls reduce the transmission of sound and add to the multi-family application advantages.

World-Class Customer Service Comes Standard at Frank Lowe

At Frank Lowe, we are an experienced, flexible, and customer-focused custom manufacturer with the expertise and state-of-art-equipment to respond to your unique needs. However, our innovative technology and expertise are only the beginning — it's our dedication to customer service that truly sets us apart.

As the premier partner, our goal is to get to know you and your company to help you build a better product. We are driven by the mantra of "We Get You What You Need When You Need It." This slogan permeates everything we do and underscores our unique culture of service.

Consultative, Customer-First Approach

At Frank Lowe, we aren't just selling products. Instead, we are providing solutions to problems and answers to complex design questions. This strategic approach oftentimes involves design assistance, prototyping, and whatever else is necessary to help you achieve your goals.

Contact Frank Lowe for Different Types of Fenestration System

Whether you're manufacturing skylights, doors, windows, or any other type of fenestration product, Frank Lowe can help. We are an experienced, customer-focused, flexible custom manufacturing partner with state-of-the-art equipment and expertise to respond to your unique needs. 

Contact Frank Lowe today to explore, pursue, and create different types of fenestration systems.

About the Author Randy Cohen

Since 2002, Randy Cohen has served as the Senior Vice President of Frank Lowe — leading Sales and Marketing as well as a variety of Administrative operations. Randy has 25 years of experience with a background in sales & marketing, production and business management, serving both government agencies and private industry. He holds a B.A from Syracuse University and a Masters and Professional Diploma from Fordham University. Randy uses his unique set of experiences to help businesses and entities across all sectors explore, pursue, and create better solutions.

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