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Using Partitions to Create Multi-Purpose Space
By: Bonnie Swenson

Many churches report that one of their biggest logistical problems is finding and juggling space for their various functions and activities. Optimizing the functionality of a multi-purpose room by using movable partitions can be the answer to your space dilemma. Many types of partitions are available that offer solutions for just about any situation.

Movable partitions—also known as operable partitions, room dividers, or folding doors—are custom built to fit the opening size and provide acoustical separation. Systems are available that divide the space into multiple rooms and then are stored out of sight when needed for performances.

Consult the Experts
Most movable partitions are suspended from an overhead track system. The hanging weight varies by type of partition. You will need to make certain your overhead structure is sufficient to properly support your partitions. If the overhead support is inadequate, there are systems that can support the partition weight independent of the building. These systems may have partition height, width, or weight limitations, but they are a good alternative to adding more support to the building.

Your partitions will need to meet any local, ADA, or fire codes. Consulting an architect and/or engineer can save you both time and money in the long run. Their knowledge and experience can be invaluable.

Sound control and sound separation will be important when dividing your rooms. The better the sound control, the more the partition weighs and the higher the cost. Make certain that the room in which you are using the movable partition has an acoustical rating similar to the room where it is being used. If the room itself doesn't control sound, the partitions won't perform to their expectations. Talk with an acoustical expert who can recommend the best way to design the room for reducing noise or enhancing speech. 

Most manufacturers have local representatives who will meet with your team to answer questions, make recommendations, refer you to other installations, or provide free layout assistance.

Gathering Information
How do you sort out the products and models that are best for your needs? Road trip. Visit other places in your area that use partitions and talk with the people who operate them. Move the partitions. Do they move quietly? Is it easy to set the seals? Are the owners satisfied with the product and the service from the supplier? Reputable manufacturers will be happy to give you the name of nearby installations where you can see and move products similar to those you are considering. 

There are so many choices—which is the best for you?

After you have determined your space needs, your partition rep will be able to help you evaluate the best models for your facility. Generally, movable partitions are categorized as operable panels, accordion doors, portable panels, or mobile partitions.

1. Operable Panels
Operable partitions are a series of panels suspended from overhead track. Operables provide optimum space flexibility. When in place, the panels are similar in appearance to a permanent wall.

Most operable panels are about 4' wide and need approximately 4" depth per panel for stacking space. The panels typically consist of a steel or aluminum frame with faces of gypsum, steel, particleboard, or a combination of materials to meet the required sound control. The faces may be finished with a variety of materials, including vinyl, fabric, or carpet. Custom finishes and substrates may also be ordered to coordinate with or match the existing walls.

The panels include sound seals. The method of setting them and sealing the partition in place varies by manufacturer. Retractable seals perform best because they do not leave rub marks on the ceiling or floor as vinyl seals often do. Retractable seals don't tear or fall off. While retractable seals are initially more expensive, they perform better over the life of the partition.

Operable options include pass thru doors for access into the adjoining space, pocket doors (to cover the storage area when the panels are not in use), inset tack or marker boards, eraser pockets, and windows. 

There are a variety of operable partition configurations.

With paired panels, a series of two or three panels are hinged together and divide the room from wall to wall. Paired panels are manually operated.

Next, manually operated individual panels provide optimum flexibility because the track they are suspended from allows the panels to move through intersections and around corners or to a remote location. The panels are ideal for facilities that may need many different room setups. Additional track can be installed so the panels can be moved to, or used in, alternate locations to form smaller or larger rooms. 

Finally, electrically operated train partitions consist of a series of panels hinged together. They are used for wall-to-wall separation and are the best choice for dividing large gymnasiums. Electric models are available with safety systems that prevent injury if a person or object is in the path of the partition while it is being moved. Manually operated models are also available for smaller openings; however, the downside of manual operation is that the operator needs to be strong enough to pull or push the entire weight of the partition across the opening (remember that all the panels are hinged together). 

2. Accordion Doors 
Choose accordion doors to quickly create meeting areas. They are easy to set in place – simply pull the door across the opening and latch. Optional switches, curves, and posts allow the doors to be moved or stored in alternate locations. Multiple doors can be attached in a straight line, curved, or intersections to create the functionality needed. 

They can be used in combination with operable partitions to optimize space flexibility.  Tall, long doors are available with optional electric operation. Marker boards or pass doors are not an option.

3. Portable Panels
Portable panels are unitized individual panels that do not require overhead support, but they provide space separation and mid-range sound control. The top of the panel extends into a ceiling channel for lateral stability. Portables are an alternative if your space lacks sufficient overhead support for operable or accordion partitions and the panels aren't moved frequently. The panels are manually placed into position and fastened together.  Pass doors are an option.

4. Mobile Partitions
Used as a sight divider rather than a room divider, a mobile partition is a series of part-high panels hinged together. They move on floor casters and fold into a compact unit. They are not sound rated, but they can provide visual separation and the panels are hinged, allowing the user to create a curve or angles. Multiple units may be attached to divide larger areas. Optional marker boards add to their versatility. 

It is also possible to combine various types of partitions for more versatility. Accordion doors may be combined with a portable pass door panel, allowing access to adjacent spaces. Or, accordion doors may be combined with operable partitions to create a hallway and series of rooms.

If your budget won't stretch to accomplish everything you want immediately, consider a step-by-step approach—install the track system now and the partitions when you can afford them. It will save you the cost of tearing open your ceilings and/or adding support steel if you decide to add partitions at a later date.

Movable partitions may be the answer to your space dilemma. Take the time to shop and compare. Get references. As with all products, there are low-cost options available that won't hold up over time or perform as expected. If you purchase a good quality partition from a reputable firm, the manufacturer will stand behind their product and the partitions will perform for many years to come. 

Bonnie Swenson is director of marketing for Hufcor, www.hufcor.com.

Product Roundup

Woodfold
Employee-owned Woodfold provides a full line of custom accordion and roll-up doors ideal for use in today's places of worship. Now more than ever, it is critical to take full advantage of your valuable space. Woodfold accordion doors are easy to operate, fully top suspended, and require minimal stack space. Models are available for installations calling for basic room dividers, mid-level security doors, or with acoustic characteristics. Woodfold's solid hardwood overhead coiling roll-up doors are perfectly suited for use as counter dividers between fellowship halls and kitchen facilities or registration desks.
www.woodfold.com

Lifetime Tables
Lifetime's patented technology gives you the assurance that every table and chair is safe and built strong enough to live up to their name. Lifetime Tables provide a place to celebrate, a place to reflect, and a place to plan your next great activity. Whether it's a church dinner, the annual membership drive, or an afternoon scout meeting, Lifetime tables are as much a part of your church's activities as you are. Their products are simple to own, ready to use, and easy to maintain.
www.lifetime.com

KWIK-WALL
KWIK-WALL is the one-stop solution for cost-effective and flexible space management, providing quality operable wall systems to worship facilities. KWIK-WALL manufactures a wide variety of operable wall systems to meet your space requirements, including moveable walls, accordion folding doors, and moveable glass walls. Their products are developed to provide easy setup and visual and sound privacy. With KWIK-WALL products, you can use the area you have to create the space you need. They offer free layout assistance, six levels of sound control, a wide variety of accessory options, and several finish options.
www.kwik-wall.com

Screenflex's Simplex
Simplex is a cost-efficient solution for dividing open space in any room. These mobile room dividers are easy to set up and fold closed for quick re-configuration of space. Simplex partitions are great for eliminating visual distraction, and its sound-absorbing panels minimize outside noise and help maintain privacy. Built with long-lasting stability in mind, dividers feature panels with deep channel end frames and full-length piano hinges, as well as wide steel base supports. 
www.screenflex.com

Operable Partitions from Hufcor
Operable partitions provide the flexibility to create several rooms from one space, easily and quickly. Hufcor, a leading manufacturer of operable partitions, offers a wide selection of models that control sound and allow you to configure your space as needed. More than 40 vinyl colors are included in the price of all operable partitions and accordion doors, or you can upgrade the finish with carpet or fabrics to further enhance or complement your décor. 
www.hufcor.com

Chairs for Worship by Uniflex
Uniflex offers many options with one philosophy: they provide customers superior-quality worship chairs at a good honest value. Whether you choose their most affordable chairs, the Vista 413, one of the higher-end wood seating options, such as the Meridian, or the innovative pew end accessory, you will get the most value for your dollar. Uniflex constantly strives to achieve the highest level of quality delivered on time and at a reasonable price.
www.chairs4worship.com

StageRight
StageRight products are designed to make your performers and events look and sound better. StageRight provides superbly engineered, versatile, durable Risers, Music Shells and Portable Staging to enhance your music programs. Their designs incorporate ease-of-use with flexibility and are constructed with sturdy, last-a-lifetime materials. Their Z-System can be configured as seating risers, choral risers, band risers, show-choir risers, theater stages, and speaker platforms – all using the same decks and Z-Supports. 
www.stageright.com

The Defiant Chair by Church Chair
The Defiant Chair by Church Chair is named to defy high prices and cheap imports. There is a wide variety of select American fabrics from which to choose. Ask about the company's free sample chair program. The chairs are made in the United States and are 99 percent recyclable. Chairs are shipped worldwide for all purposes. The chairs are constructed with quality American steel and foam.
www.churchchair.com

SICO Staging Systems
The Dual or Single Height 1800 series from Sico offers all the advantages of a mobile folding stage, plus the added simplicity and speed of built-in height adjustability. The 1800 is designed to be set up and taken down by one person, resulting in considerable savings in time and labor. SICO also offers the Tri-Height stage for even more flexibility. Set up at single level for meeting room stages or head table settings. Set up tiered configurations for seating or choral risers. All SICO stages are easy to set up and take down. Each section rolls on its own casters and is quickly and easily set into place.
www.sicoinc.com









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