Questions to Ask When Choosing a Movable Wall System

June 1, 2007
Ask the right questions when selecting an operable partition for your facility

By Melissa Rosson

Operable partitions let hotels, conference centers, and religious and academic facilities divide and expand rooms to meet changing needs. Specifying them into the building design not only allows the owner to provide privacy, but also maximizes a facility's use by enabling the hosting of simultaneous events. Choosing an operable partition isn't always an easy task. Asking the right questions upfront will help you choose the correct partition for your facility.

Question No. 1: How do I know if I need an accordion or operable partition?
This decision should be based on the sound rating you are looking to achieve, the amount of times you plan to reconfigure the space, the budgetary requirements, and the function of the room. Accordion doors provide quick sight and sound division, and have a lower cost than operable partitions. Operable partitions are more durable and provide better sound separation between meeting areas.

Question No. 2: Should I get single or paired panel partitions? Manual or electric?
Single-panel partitions offer the greatest versatility for space-division needs. For large openings and storage in remote pockets, and in complex partition layouts, the single panel is the partition of choice. Paired panels, or panels hinged together, are the easiest manually operated operable partitions to use. Generally available in top-supported or floor-supported configurations, the center-hung paired panels are perfect for straight-line openings and offer quick, easy set-up. For simple operation in straight-line openings, the electrically operated partition divides the space with the turn of a key.

Question No. 3: How do I control sound with operable partitions?
Acoustical control is a critical factor in virtually every type of environment. Excellent sound control can be achieved with the right panel system. Taking into consideration the entire room environment is the most important step in the process. Things to consider include flooring, wallcoverings, furniture, windows, and any other large objects that will influence the absorption or reflection of sound. In addition, ask the partition manufacturer about the bottom seal's interaction with flooring, the design of the top seal, or the header area above the panel. These factors impact sound's ability to bypass the panel. (For more information on sound-related issues, see Recommendations on Sound Ratings, above.)

Question No. 4: What is the advantage of the automatic seal over the manual seal?
Seal choices are based on both the panel configuration and the situations of the room. To make a choice, consider how often you will reconfigure and who will reconfigure. If you have a single-panel system that requires frequent set-ups, an automatic seal may be right for you. Manual seals work well in paired configurations as well as single-panel runs, which are not reconfigured often.

When choosing an operable partition, carefully consider the many options available. By reviewing these questions with a technical representative at your partition supplier, you can choose the product and configuration appropriate for your unique application.

Melissa Rosson is marketing coordinator at Greenfield, IN-based Modernfold Inc. (

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