Curtain Systems

Curtain Systems


In this lesson, students explore techniques for working with curtain walls and the elements that define a complete curtain system—panels, grids, and mullions. They will learn how to:

  • Specify the layout and spacing of the curtain wall elements for new curtain wall systems and how to modify existing ones.
  • Explore the design options available for customizing grid patterns, panel materials, and panel types.

Curtain Wall Elements

Curtain walls provide separation between spaces, but typically do not support structural loads. They are often used to create very sleek, modern exterior skins for buildings or to separate interior spaces where high visibility is desired (for example, between a lobby and a conference room).


Figure 1.3.1. Curtain system elements—panels, grids, and mullions

Curtain walls are composed of:

  • Panels—often made of glass, but a wide variety of materials can be used
  • Grids—horizontal and vertical divisions that subdivide the wall
  • Mullions—members that frame the panels and provide support for the weight of the panels as well as resistance to wind and other lateral loads

Designing Curtain Grid Patterns

Curtain walls are created using Autodesk® Revit® software’s Wall tool and placed using the same techniques as other wall types. The key difference is that you must choose one of the special curtain wall types (which are listed after the basic wall types) from the Type Selector in the Properties palette.

When creating a curtain wall, you can:

  • Create a single wall panel that you will manually subdivide by adding grids and mullions to it.
  • Use a previously defined curtain wall type that specifies the grid pattern and mullion types as part of the type definition.

Regardless of which method you use to create a curtain wall, you can easily modify (add, remove, or move) grids and change the mullions as desired to accurately model your design.

You specify a curtain wall’s horizontal and vertical grid layout (as well as the mullions to be placed at the panel and wall edges) by editing its type and instance properties. You set the pattern for each direction independently, and the layout options include:

  • None—creates no grids.
  • Fixed number—divides the wall into panels of equal size. The number of panels is set as an instance property each wall.
  • Fixed distance—places grids at the fixed distance specified. Smaller panels will be created at the beginning or end of the pattern if the total length to be divided is not an even multiple of the distance specified.
  • Maximum spacing—divides the wall into panels of equal size that are as big as possible without exceeding the maximum specified.
  • Minimum spacing—divides the wall into panels of equal size that are as small as possible but that are no smaller than the minimum specified.

Adjusting Grids and Mullions

You can edit the grid layout of existing curtain walls—adding, removing, or moving entire grids or selected segments—using the Curtain Grid tool.

With the Curtain Grid tool selected, you hover the cursor over the horizontal or vertical edges of a curtain panel, and Revit suggests potential grid locations that would divide it into even increments (for example, halves or thirds). You can also align curtain grids to other elements in your model by snapping to faces, reference planes, or levels.

When adding curtain grids to a wall, you can use placement options to:

  • Add grid lines across all segments (the entire face).
  • Add grid lines to one segment (a single panel).
  • Add grid lines across all segments except ones that you pick to exclude.

Use the Mullion tool to place mullions on any grid line segment, on an entire grid lines, or on all of the curtain wall’s grid lines and boundaries.

To make editing curtain grids and mullions easier, choose an elevation or 3D view that displays the horizontal and vertical grid layout.

Creating and Using Curtain Panel Types

When you create a curtain wall using a type-defined layout or add grids using the Curtain Grid tool, Revit subdivides the wall into curtain panels with the same type properties.

By default, curtain panels are set to a type named Glazed, which specifies a transparent glass material. You change a curtain panel’s type by selecting it and choosing another type from the Type Selector.

You can also create new curtain panel types to model panels with different properties (for example, different colors, materials, or transparencies) by duplicating an existing type and setting the material properties to create the desired effect.

Placing Doors in Curtain Systems

Curtain wall systems behave like basic walls in many ways, but one key difference is that they cannot host standard door objects.

You add doors to curtain walls in Revit by replacing curtain panel elements (which are typically stationary or fixed) with a special panel type that provides door functionality.

Before replacing a fixed curtain panel with a door panel type, you should adjust the curtain grid lines by adding or removing segments to create a panel with dimensions that match the size of the desired door panel.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explore new design alternatives made possible through the use of curtain panels.
  • Combine different techniques and components in order to create a functional curtain system.
  • Investigate the best way to divide curtain walls for various applications.


Creating Curtain Walls

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Create new curtain walls.
  • Change the type of an existing wall to a curtain wall.
  • Adjust the placement and orientation of curtain walls.
  • Define curtain wall type properties to automatically place curtain grids and mullions.

Figure 1.3.2. Creating new curtain walls

Video Tutorial
Student Exercise

  • Create a new curtain wall type called Residence NorthWall by changing the type of the exterior wall at the north side of the residence to Curtain Wall 2, duplicating it, and renaming it.
  • Adjust the type properties of the north wall to specify a layout with a fixed number of panels as the vertical and horizontal grid pattern, then adjust the instance properties in order to create a grid layout that matches the pattern shown in Figure 1.3.3.

Figure 1.3.3. Initial curtain grid layout on the north side of the residence

Adjusting Grid Lines

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Add new grids to existing curtain walls.
  • Edit existing curtain grid lines and segments.
  • Add mullions to curtain grid lines.
  • Pin and unpin curtain system elements to prevent or allow changes to the layout.

Figure 1.3.4 Pinn9ng curtain system elements

Video Tutorial
Student Exercise
  • Modify the curtain wall on the north side of the residence by adding and removing curtain grid lines to match the pattern shown in Figure 1.3.5.
  • Complete the design by adding mullions to all the grid lines on the north wall

Figure 1.3.5. New grids and mullions in curtain grid layout on the north side of the residence

Choosing and Creating Curtain Panel Types

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Select individual curtain wall panels.
  • Change curtain wall panels to different types.
  • Select multiple curtain wall panels to be modified at once.
  • Create new curtain panel types and specifying their properties.

Figure 1.3.6. Specifying curtain panel type properties

Video Tutorial
Student Exercise
  • Change the indicated curtain panels on the north wall of the residence (shown in Figure 1.3.7) from glazed panels to a new type called Solid – White.
  • Create a new panel type for panel 2 by editing its current type, renaming it Solid – Gray, and assigning it the material named Gray Panel.
  • Create a new panel type for panel 17 by editing its current type, renaming it Wood – Dark, and assigning it the material named Wood Panel – Dark.

Figure 1.3.7. Panels to be changed in curtain grid layout on the north side of the residence

Placing Doors in Curtain Walls

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Adjust curtain grid segments to create a panel with the dimensions for a desired door opening.
  • Change a curtain wall panel element into a single or double door.

Figure 1.3.8. Changing a curtain panel to a single door

Video Tutorial
Student Exercise
  • Modify the curtain grid segments on the south side of the studio to match the layout shown in Figure 1.3.9. The width of the new door panel should be three times the width of the adjacent fixed panel to the right.
  • Change the door panel to the type called Curtain Wall Single Door – Wood and change the remaining panel types as needed to match the appearance shown in Figure 1.3.9.

Figure 1.3.9. Wooden door panel in grid layout on the south side of the studio


Designing Curtain Grid Patterns

How would you specify a curtain wall’s properties to create vertical gridlines that are equally spaced—for example, 5 feet (5 m) apart—on all sides of a building regardless of wall length?

Equally spaced gridlines can be created by editing a curtain wall’s type properties. By select the Fixed Distance option for the vertical grid pattern layout and assigning a spacing, the new condition will be met for all walls using this wall type.

To change how excess wall is distributed if the wall length is not evenly divisible by the desired spacing, you can change the justification instance property for each wall separately.

How would you specify panels of equal size but no larger than 10 feet (0 m) wide?

By changing the vertical grid layout to the Maximum Spacing option, you can set a target spacing that will not be exceeded. This option will evenly divide a curtain wall until the actual spacing is close to the desired spacing, leaving no need for a justification option.

If you change the grid pattern layout and spacing rules for an existing curtain wall type, are the walls that have already been placed updated using the new rules?

Yes. If the type properties of a curtain wall have been changed, all walls that have been assigned to that type will be updated. However, if instance properties are changed, only the wall being edited will be changed.

Adjusting Grids and Mullions

Would it be easier to start by specifying a regular pattern in the curtain wall’s type properties, then modify it? Or would it be better to manually subdivide the wall by adding curtain grids individually?

If a pattern is simple, or it is to be repeated on multiple walls, then it would be easier to specify a regular pattern in the type properties. If only minor adjustments to the pattern are going to be made, then assigning a regular pattern may again prove to be helpful.

However, if each wall is extremely different, or the desired pattern is extremely complex, it may be easier to start from scratch instead of with a predefined pattern.

What types of patterns cannot be made using the layout options in the curtain wall type properties?

Vertical and horizontal grid lines can be placed at angles, offset, added, or removed, however, there is no option to create circular or curved grid lines.

How do you change the mullion properties (for example, the profile or the material) for a curtain wall type?

If the mullions are placed using the curtain wall’s type properties, then the mullion properties cannot be changed. We are only able to select a new, existing type within the curtain wall’s type properties.

If mullions are placed separately, they can be selected, changed, duplicated, and altered just like most other components in Revit.

Creating and Using Curtain Panel Types

What types of materials are typically used in curtain wall panels?

Glazing, which usually refers to glass or plastic finishes, typically make up curtain wall panels since they usually have a wide range of transparency properties that can be used for different applications. However, almost all materials―such as metal cladding, stone veneer, and wood―can be used as curtain wall panels.

How are opaque or semitransparent panels used in a curtain wall designs?

Absolute transparency is not always needed in curtain walls. Opaque and semitransparent panels can be used architecturally to create private spaces such as meeting rooms or bathrooms. They can also simply add flare to a building by adding more variety to a design.

Can you create an open panel (with no material) in a curtain wall system?

It is not possible to delete a panel, but it is possible to change the type to an Empty System Panel, which is a panel type that lacks a material.

Placing Doors in Curtain Systems

Do curtain wall door panels behave like standard door types? Can you change the orientation or swing direction using standard door editing techniques? Do they appear in door schedules?

Yes. Once placed, doors in curtain walls act as any other door. They appear in schedules and their orientation and swing can be changed. However, you cannot drag them into another location like a typical door. Instead, to relocate a door, a new panel must be created and changed into a curtain wall door panel type.

What other types of operable panels would be useful in a curtain wall? For ventilation? For shading?

Besides doors, curtain walls can include windows or sun shading devices.

Key Terms

Key Term
Curtain Wall
A system of panels, grids, and mullions, typically architectural and non–load bearing, used to separate spaces.
Individual curtain wall sections, often made of glass, but a wide variety of materials can be used.
Horizontal and vertical divisions that subdivide the wall into panels.
Members that frame the panels and provide support for the weight of the panels as well as resistance to wind and other lateral loads.