From Structural Wall Panels to Architectural Wall Panels…We’ve done a LOT!
Energywall™ Systems, Inc., an affiliate of Swirnow Building Systems℠ was introduced in 1978 in response to the energy crisis that began earlier in the decade. While its primary purpose was to develop a wall system with improved R-values and U-factors, we pioneered today’s load bearing prefabricated steel stud wall systems. Long before 4″ and 6″ deep heavy gauge steel studs were popular for building applications, we were cutting our own studs to exact lengths, assembling them into 10′ x 30′ panels in pressure jigs, with all connections MIG welded. Energywalls™ were truly unique in that they were built to structural standards incorporating tube columns, X bracing, and slotted load distribution angles to ensure that all studs were bearing. In terms of energy efficiency, the typical 6″ deep studs provided a larger cavity for more insulation – substantially more than the conventional 3-5/8″ studs that were popular in that day. Energywalls™ together with Hambro® Composite Floors were used in many mid-rise projects throughout the Mid Atlantic States which paved the way for structural grade light gauge framing that is so prevalent today.
In 1980, Energywalls™ were used in the first six story structure in the United States and Canada, utilizing load bearing steel studs, as a HUD housing project in Danville, Pennsylvania. Our Value-Engineered design was reviewed and authorized for use by the HUD office in Philadelphia, and HUD central in Washington, D.C. In 1983, our Baltimore City factory also participated in the innovation of prefabricated steel stud wall sections as a substitute for block, as a backup to brick veneers requiring minimum deflections of L/600 and L/720. Energypanels™ used 4″ and 6″ deep structural gauge steel studs prefabricated into spandrel and full-story panels, with factory-attached exterior grade sheathing, 15# felt paper and DW-10 brick ties. Other accessories included factory-attached structural and brick relieving angles all MIG welded and coated with zinc-chromate primer. The Baltimore factory also provided prefabricated roof mansard steel stud framing. The factory prefabricated Energywalls™ and Energypanels™ permitted quick on site erection, resulting in earlier building “close in”, subtrade starts and building completion. In 1986 the factory began applying finishes to the panels such as thin brick, and completed our first prefabricated Architectural cladding job. Our success was due in part to our desire to add as many parts and pieces to our assemblies as practical, thereby accelerating the on-site erection. This resulted in earlier building “close-ins”, sub-trade starts and building completion.
In 1995, we introduced one of the first pressure-equalizing rainscreen panels to the US market which were made of a polymer-based composite. Unfortunately, we discovered that synthetic materials did not capture the imagination of designers, who were more interested in natural materials.
In 2000, we began our research into terracotta cladding and considered a distributorship agreement with an international manufacturer of ceramic panels. However, further research proved that the installation of the these hollow-core panels was labor intensive and required a host of accessories such as clips and gaskets. Convinced that there had to be an easier way – that would also be cost-effective – our research intensified.
Finally in 2005 at Batimat-Paris, we learned about and began developing what is now NeaCera® today.