I probably shouldn’t say “never,” but it is true that many end users of Skyfold (the leader in vertical folding walls) become repeat customers. To date, over 320 Skyfold purchasers enjoy their experience so much that they purchase again. With a large percent of those having purchased Skyfold more than twice. Some have practically made Skyfold their standard go-to folding wall, using no other option since investing in their very first Skyfold wall years ago.
Architects also specify Skyfold on a repeat basis, for which everyone associated with Skyfold is very grateful. In fact, as of the posting of this blog post, over 430 architects have specified Skyfold more than once. One awesome example is Gensler, the world’s largest architect, which has specified over 800 Skyfold walls. Thank you Gensler!
Why are customers so loyal to Skyfold?
Besides the superior acoustical separation properties Skyfold is known for, many end users tell us that the fully automated vertically stacking (ceiling storing) Skyfold walls are much easier to use than the old-fashioned horizontal types that are typically moved by hand. The push button operation of a Skyfold wall is so easy that anyone can move the wall up into the ceiling to open up the space or down to divide the space. The ceiling storage feature also allows for more usable floor space which can often mean more lifetime revenue in places that rent our their space such as hotels, restaurants, catering/banquet halls, convention centers, and even schools.
How much ceiling clearance is need?
A common question from architects and designers thinking about specifying Skyfold for their clients has to do with the clearance needed in the ceiling for the panel stack. The answer is: it depends on the height of the wall. Up to a 9 ft clear height the Skyfold wall only needs 14.5” of panel stacking space and the tallest Skyfold wall option with 36 ft clear needs 4’-6” of panel stacking space. Since Skyfold has been storing their panels in the ceiling space for over 25 years they have lots of strategies to work with. There is almost always a way to work around the other services such as HVAC ducts and sprinklers as well. Just call your local Skyfold rep and ask.
Although Skyfold walls are thicker, they are also hollow and use a large 8” dead air space to achieve their superior acoustic performance. As such, they stack in the ceiling in far less space than one would imagine and are very lightweight. Therefore, vertical walls don’t require a large I beam. In fact, they are often nestled between the structural beams to maximize ceiling height and sometimes are supported to the underside of the slab or roof structure above which could eliminate the need for additional steel altogether.
Additionally, horizontal stacking walls eat up usable floor space. Which, depending on the length and number of walls, can be sizable and mess up your sight line with a big closet to store the panels that often stick out into the room.
See how much space horizontal stacking walls take up?
How much more do they cost?
The second most common question is about the cost difference between horizontal stacking and vertical stacking walls. This is understandable, as architects have to find that fine balance between design, function, and budget. Unfortunately, this is a tough question to answer because the products are very different and a comparison is a little like comparing an automobile to bicycle. Both can be used for transportation but the user experience is very different. Obviously a bicycle is less expensive, but it may not be what you need.
The first thing to keep in mind when comparing the cost between horizontal and vertical operable walls is that the structural support required for a horizontal stacking wall is far more expensive. This is because it often requires 5 to 10 times more structural steel. The reason for this is that horizontal walls are much heavier per square foot and they are also a dynamic moving live load on the structure. In contrast, a Skyfold vertically stacking wall is a static dead load which can weigh half as much.
Of course the acoustical performance is night and day as well. A typical horizontal electric wall panel STC (Sound Transmission Class) tops out at 52 to 56 STC and Skyfold’s line starts at a 57 panel STC and goes all the way up to a 66 STC! With all that said, the closest comparison would probably be a 56 STC horizontal to a 57 STC vertical. In this case, not counting the structural steel cost difference which would be higher with a horizontal wall, the cost difference for a typical 10’ H x 24’ L, for example, could be between 25% and 30% more for a vertical wall. Of course, the cost difference widens if the comparison is to a manual wall or the panel STC gap is greater. Also, the horizontal stacking wall would eat up about 17 square feet of floor space for panel storage, while a Skyfold that stacks up needs NO floor space leaving it all usable when stored in the ceiling. A true cost comparison should factor in the additional cost for lost floor area, (17 sf times, say, $200/sf bldg construction cost = $3400). It should also include pocket / closet construction costs and pocket door costs to hide the panels as well as the additional steel I beam required to support the horizontal type wall. The horizontal wall in this example would weigh about 12 lbs/sf and would be a live load while the vertical wall would weigh about 6 lbs/sf and would be a dead load.
You can see how the extra costs add up.
Why it is worth it?
Repeat customers, both end users and architects, tell us the motor driven vertical stacking or folding walls are more reliable, provide better acoustic separation, and get used more often because they are easy to operate by anyone able to push a button. The cheaper manually-moved horizontal stacking partitions quickly become a chore to move and as a consequence get used less and less frequently (sometimes not at all). This kind of defeats the purpose of paying more for a movable wall if it’s too much of a hassle to move it. Doesn’t it?
The vertical walls usually move much faster than horizontal walls as they are traveling a shorter distance from the floor to the ceiling vs. from the wall to the back of a storage pocket. This can save labor expenses especially for those venues that rent their space.
There are aesthetic considerations as well! The wall jamb at the lead end, the guide rail that hangs down from the ceiling, and the often visible stack of panels which come along with horizontal walls are sometimes a concern for architects and owners who want a clean looking space.
When thoughtfully considering all the variables: structural cost, construction cost, usable space, and the ease/speed of use, the return on investment (ROI) is much better for the end user with a vertical wall. It’s no wonder that Skyfold customers keep coming back to the wall that does not side stack but folds quickly and easily into the ceiling.
New England Ivy League University (17 Skyfold Walls)
Big 5 CPA Firm (73 Skyfold Walls)
Large Medical Billing Company (73 Skyfold Walls)