Maximizing Your Space With Moveable Walls
By: Jeffrey W. Ryan
Even in these difficult economic times, churches are finding more choices and better products at a lower cost to divide space inside the church by using portable partitions. Portable partitions are floor-based mobile room dividers that can be moved throughout the church, allowing for infinite wall configurations and uses for multi-purpose rooms, common areas, classrooms, music rooms, hallways, and sanctuaries.
Tight budgets, strict building codes, reduced efficiency of heating and air conditioning, concerns about ceiling integrity, and new non-traditional temporary buildings have all contributed to the increase in popularity of these mobile folding portable partitions. They can be set up quickly and easily by one person and can store in very little space. They are made in many different materials and open and close in many different ways. They are available in a multitude of heights, lengths, and colors, all with different features to meet the needs of any church.
Over the last 10 years, the variety of portable partitions has expanded due to product evolution, innovation driven by and increased market demand. Portable partitions are categorized by type, acoustical or non-acoustical, portability mode, stabilization method, panel core material, surface covering, and size.
An accordion partition is a partition that consists of a series of interconnected panels. The connecting mechanism is either a piano hinge or a geared 360-degree hinge. The hinging system allows for the partition to be positioned in linear and non-linear shapes of fixed lengths.
A telescoping partition is also a partition consisting of a series of interconnected panels, but each panel slides behind the next, extending the partition panels to the desired length in a straight line. The telescoping feature allows for perfect fit between fixed points.
A vertical roll-up partition is a partition with small segmented panels stitched together to provide smooth contours and irregular shapes. This style of partition stores by rolling it up and strapping it in the closed position. When deployed, it unrolls to any shape.
A non-folding partition is simply a panel of fixed length and height that remains in its position both when used and stored.
A tri-fold partition is a traditional three-panel system that consists of a series of panels interconnected with either a piano or geared 360-degree hinge.
The portability of the freestanding portable partition is one of the most important features. These features allow the user to set up and quickly remove the partition for the more efficient use of their space. The portability feature varies significantly with product type. The main means of portability is achieved by permanently mounted casters on some types to as simple as either placing other types on cart or physically picking them up and moving them.
The stabilization method of the portable partition is critical when deciding what type of partition to purchase to be sure it is suitable to its intended environment. Portable partitions are stabilized by four methods.
A perpendicular end member is either a full partition panel, or a frame that is fastened perpendicular to the line of the partition panels. This stabilization feature provides excellent stability in all positions, straight to serpentine.
Product configuration relies on the position of the partition for its stabilization. This style partition is not intended for straight use and must be contorted in some fashion to achieve sufficient stability. The stability of the system relies on the person setting it up, rather than the product itself.
Integrated Tee Base is a permanent base mounted below the partition oriented 90 degrees to the panel to provide stability. Generally, partitions with this stabilization mode will have an integrated tee base at the beginning and end of the partition.
Accessorial foot is an add-on to partitions relying on their position for stability. This option is available to make partitions that rely on their configuration to be oriented in a straight position.
There are four general types of core material for portable partition panels: Honeycomb Fiberboard, Fluted Polycarbonate Plastic, Expanded Foam, and Fabric. Each has unique properties in acoustic control, environmental hazard protection, and general sight blocking.
Portable partitions are covered in a Vertical Surface Fabric, Vinyl Wall covering, or Acoustical Carpet, depending on the core material and application.
A popular portable partition is the articulating partition, which is on wheels and is made up by a series of panels connected together by a hinge at the end of each panel. The advantage of an articulating partition is that you can make infinite configurations by bending the walls into any shape desired. Most are honeycomb core with either aluminum or steel frames covered in an acoustical vertical fabric or washable vinyl with either a 180 degree hinge or a 360-degree hinge connecting the panels. They all have perpendicular end-members at the beginning and end of each wall to give lateral stability.
Telescoping partitions are relatively new to the marketplace but have a following from those churches that need exact widths of walls but don't have the budget to purchase custom partitions. Although telescoping walls are manufactured from the same materials at the articulating partitions, instead of a hinge at the end of each panel, there is a sliding mechanism that allows the unit to open to any length yet remain straight. This type of partition works well replacing old ceiling based movable walls, in hallways, between pillars, or as a doorway in and out of an open area.
Soft foam partitions have been around for awhile, but new technology has increased the flexibility while drastically reducing the cost. Soft foam partitions are wrapped in acoustical carpeting to maximize sound deadening. They rest on the floor and use their shape to stand upright. Available in several colors, styles, and lengths, these are ideal acoustical portable partitions.
Expandable steel partitions can stand on their own or be attached to walls or entryways. More secure than standard portable partitions, they can be locked by padlocks to secure sensitive areas. These are available in several lengths, widths, and colors to meet any opening or hallway.
Canvas or fabric covered partitions are available in articulating, tri-fold, or single panel units in several sizes, shapes and colors. Since these partitions have no panels, only fabric, they offer no acoustics and are considered sight dividers.
Poster board or bulletin board partitions are lightweight and inexpensive and work well for light-duty or single-purpose applications, available in several colors, lengths and heights.
In addition to all the different types of portable partitions now available, many specialty products have been introduced. Portable partitions that are 100% white board are great for classrooms, meetings, events, and brainstorming sessions.
Churches have found new and innovative ways to solve space problems from using local school cafeterias, to malls and commercial buildings, many of which convert back to their original purpose moments after the services, small groups, or classes conclude. Portable partitions are a fast, easy, and inexpensive alternative to creating the ideal space, no matter the type of building, by creating rooms of the perfect size for any group or occasion. Whatever the needs or the budget of the church, a portable partition is available in the marketplace to solve any space concerns.
Jeffrey W. Ryan is chief executive officer of Versare Portable Products. www.versare.com