I know, you may think ‘a wall is a wall is a wall’. But when designing a new workspace, it’s important to realize that the differences can have a major impact on the long-term bottom line. The main considerations include price, flexibility and acoustical privacy, and it is essential to make an educated comparison.

What is a demountable wall versus a movable wall?

Demountable walls are architectural wall systems that can be unmounted, relocated, and reinstalled at a new location. Movable wall is just another name for demountable wall. Sometimes they are also called demountable partitions. There are two main types of demountable walls: modular and unitized. Modular wall systems usually come in pieces and need to be assembled on site. These types of walls can require more labor and coordination from a logistical stand point. Unitized walls arrive on site as a unit assembly and typically install very quickly and can be easily reconfigured using less labor.

Modular Wall Systems:  V.I.A.  |  Maars  |  Dirtt   |  Methis

Unitized Wall Systems:  Privacy Wall  |  Glass Selections  |  Haworth

What are the pros and cons of one type of a wall system over the other?

Modular walls typically have a few more skin and finish options than unitized walls, which is key for a project that requires a high level of design flexibility. Unitized walls, however, will arrive in a more finished state which can decrease the project installation schedule as they install very quickly. They can also be specified in a way that allows panels to be interchangeable.

Steelcase’s new V.I.A. system has some features of both demountable and unitized wall systems – although the frame may be stick-built many of the elements come in finished state such as captured glass panels that snap in place and can go from single pane to double pane with out changing structure.

Steelcase VIA
Steelcase V.I.A. Demountable Wall System

Why would you opt for demountable walls over traditional construction?

Many clients have the perception that demountable walls are cost prohibitive over traditional construction. Contrary to what they may think, these wall systems can be very cost competitive to traditional construction. The first step is to ensure an apple to apple comparison. Things to consider are:

> Are the configuration of the wall the same? (i.e.) amount and location of glass

> Are the types of doors being specified the same?

> Was consideration paid to the fact that with traditional construction you need to cut the ceiling and carpet around walls?

> Are all the power and finish items associated with the walls, including outlets, switches, paint and base taken into account?

With all of the above being equal, there is still an additional factor to consider… will the office ever be relocated? If the answer is yes, then demountable walls have a huge advantage, as 90 to 100% can be re-used in another installation. Lastly, with proper coordination and project management, time can be saved in the schedule when using a demountable wall system, depending upon the size of the project this can be a few weeks to a few months, and we all know time is money.

In a nutshell, demountable walls are an elegant, cost effective option, especially if you are looking for a wide array of design options as well as the flexibility to reconfigure or move existing product to a new space. With the trend towards optimized and resilient real estate, many organizations are choosing these types of wall systems. Acoustically, products like Steelcase’s V.I.A. systems have never been better with solid panel ratings up to 52 STC.


AUTHORED BY:  Larry Velie
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