Operable Partition Walls are the Hottest Design Trend for Schools

The Multi-Purpose Room at the new Annie Wright Upper School for Boys features a timber-framed operable glass wall. It helps create a multifunctional space that can serve as a lounge area for students or additional teaching and testing space.

Using movable walls to break up spaces, add privacy, and reduce the exchange of germs is on the rise nationwide. Operable glass partitions and unique markerboard walls are particularly popular in school design. For the Annie Wright School in Tacoma, Washington, spaces in a new academic building include both.

Design insights

“As project designer and architect, I had the dual role of both envisioning the spaces and finding the technical solutions,” says Nathaniel Smith, an associate at Mithun architects, with offices in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“For the classroom, we needed an operable partition with an STC rating [sound transmission class] comparable to a solid wall, so students would not be distracted when the room was split in two,” he explains. “Products from Hufcor provided the exact performance and aesthetic qualities we needed for both locations. The variety of finish options allowed us to find the solution best suited for the school’s goals.

“We’ve been able to use Hufcor partition walls on many projects,” Smith continues. “Most notably, the walls were specified in the Blakely Elementary School on Bainbridge Island outside of Seattle. That project received the prestigious MacConnell Award from the Association for Learning Environments.”

Open school spaces

As buildings continue to reopen after the pandemic, flexibility is an increasingly important aspect of spaces. In particular, schools will require ways to integrate both hybrid and safely-distanced classrooms for in-person learning. At the new $60 million Paso Verde K-8 School outside Sacramento, two impressive Hufcor operable walls are included in the school’s design.

The first, in the school gym, is an 80-foot wide by 18-foot high bi-parting electric operable wall. Vinyl surfaces on the panels coordinate with the school’s colors. The automatic movable wall, featuring an STC of 51, is opened and closed many times each day.

The second is a partition marker board operable wall located in a classroom for students with special needs.   

“The panels in both spaces are incredibly easy to use,” says Jen Mellor, director of facilities and strategic planning with Natomas Unified School District. “This makes it easy to reduce a large space to a smaller space very quickly.”

According to Aaron Buehring, director of educational environments with Lionakis architects in California, “The whiteboard option on the partition was an excellent way to provide students and teachers with a decentralized classroom model and student-owned learning solutions. We specified Hufcor for these walls for their durability, performance and overall price point.”

Hufcor’s global headquarters is in Janesville, Wisconsin, with manufacturing sites in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia/Asia Pacific. For more information, visit hufcor.com.

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