Operable Partitions and Structural Support Deflection Issues

Deflection Issues for Operable Partitions

Operable partitions provide versatility to room layouts. They provide sound separation and aesthetic value. But to a structural engineer, the devil is in the details. These systems must be able to function properly in order to maintain operability and sound retention.

The support of these systems must not only carry the partition weight but also limit the deflection for proper operation. The simplest approach is to place a floor supported system on a slab-on-grade.  But this type of system is rarely specified.

All structures deflect. It is an indication of the elastic properties of the affected member or members. Although easier to accommodate in new structures, adding these systems to existing buildings can be problematic.

Different panel systems possess different deflection requirements. The most common system is the folding partition. Their construction depends on the STC rating (sound transmission class) which affects the deflection limitations. Other systems include accordion doors, movable glass panels, self-supporting panels and portable panels. For this article, we will address the needs of the folding panel partitions.

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