Five Ways to Save Energy with Curtain Walls
Reducing your facility’s energy usage isn’t just good for the planet, its good for business. Since energy-related expenses can account for as much as 25 percent (or more) of a typical plant’s operating costs, most plant managers spend significant time looking for ways to reduce them. One energy efficiency approach that is becoming increasingly common is the use of non-permanent fabric curtain walls.
By separating environments within and around the perimeter of industrial buildings, fabric curtain walls can allow HVAC systems to work more efficiently, keep outdoor elements at bay, and help workers to stay more comfortable and productive. Here is an overview of five common energy saving applications for industrial fabric curtain walls:
1. Enclose Open Dock Areas
Not everyone uses the modern loading dock design of individual bays with dedicated dock doors, etc. Many buildings, especially older ones, have open dock areas that are inside or outside the footprint of the building envelope. These “open” areas introduce cold air or hot air into the building, causing the temperature within to rise or drop. This can be tough on the climate control systems in use. By enclosing these open dock areas with fabric curtain walls, companies have an easier time keeping the thermostat at a consistent temperature to reduce energy spending. As the seasons change, these types of walls can be designed to be opened up when weather is more agreeable, allowing for full weather and energy control. Additionally, keeping the facility at comfortable temperatures usually makes for happier, more productive employees.
2. Create HVAC Temperature Zones
Along the same lines, we see many customers introduce heating or cooling into large areas of their buildings and in some cases, condition the whole footprint. The reasons for this vary from employee comfort and safety, to raw material or ingredient protection, to requirements for specific processes in production areas. With fabric curtain walls, you can effectively compartmentalize treated air spaces so that air and energy dollars aren’t flowing freely throughout the entire building. By creating temperature-controlled zones, you can be more strategic with HVAC expenditures on an annual basis.
3. Close Grade-Level Openings
Another area where fabric curtain walls improve energy efficiency is at large, grade-level door openings or rail dock openings. Many of these larger door openings are too big for high-speed doors and the cost for giant telescoping doors (think airplane hangar-size) isn’t in the budget. Keeping traditional doors at these locations is a maintenance headache and a nightmare for the MRO budget. By utilizing a sliding fabric curtain wall instead, the opening can be blocked off to keep wind and elements from entering the building and lowering or raising the temperature. Controlling air infiltration (wind) is the larger part of the battle in controlling temperature. These simple curtains can seal off the openings nicely and the original existing door unit can be kept for security or as an off-hours door as needed.
4. Control Dust
Dust and debris, which can migrate into and through a building, is another important application for fabric curtain walls. This type of contaminant in a building can wreak havoc on HVAC or refrigeration equipment or process equipment that is overly sensitive to foreign matter. Controlling the migration and/or collection points of dust within your building, allows a facility’s HVAC and process equipment to work at a higher efficiency. This saves energy dollars and could prolong the life of the units.
5. Contain Compactors
Similarly to other dock door openings, facilities with openings for compactors can be infiltrated by the outdoor elements. Extreme temperatures, humidity or dust and other air contaminants can easily make their way into the building through these entry ways. Instead of letting the HVAC system manage these issues by using up additional energy, consider using fabric curtain wall enclosures that can extend from the building and adequately encompass the opening of the compactor, essentially extending the indoor footprint of the building without having to build permanent walls. An industrial fabric compacter enclosure eliminates any concern of temperature and humidity changes, and maintains air quality, all the while allowing the HVAC system to operate at optimal efficiency. Not only can this drastically minimize energy consumption, it will improve working conditions for employees.
In an increasingly energy consumption-aware culture, every little reduction in usage helps – from turning off the lights at the end of the day to using more energy-efficient technology every day. One of the best ways for industrial facilities to lower energy use is to increase the efficiency of the operations that consume energy. Curtain walls can be applied in a myriad of circumstances to do just that – enclosing large outdoor openings in the building, compartmentalizing zones within the plant, and preventing contaminants from entering. While every little bit helps, for real cost and energy savings, there’s a great opportunity for your plant to make a big difference in lowering energy consumption with industrial fabric curtain walls.