Story at a glance:
- Horizontal and vertical space dividing solutions from Modernfold and Skyfold allow for flexible design and benefits like daylighting and acoustic control.
- Modernfold’s Acousti-Clear® Glass Walls are designed with sleek aluminum and glass with industry leading 51 STC sound separation.
- Skyfold’s vertical folding solutions offer acoustic privacy and aesthetics, as Skyfold disappears into the ceiling at the push of a button.
A growing need for flexible spaces, an increased interest in glass, and a desire to transform rooms quickly are among the top reasons people are turning to Modernfold and Skyfold—industry leaders in horizontal and vertical space dividing solutions.
With the touch of a button a large, open conference space can easily morph into many private spaces for meetings, interviews, or focused work. “Flexible spaces are more productive and efficient,” says Bryan Welch, managing director at Modernfold.
Welch, a mechanical engineer by trade, has been with Modernfold for more than a decade and has watched as workplace needs evolved. “One option is to build a custom room for everything you might ever want to do, but that is unrealistic, as space needs evolve and change over time.”
Fortunately there’s another option: easy-to-use acoustical partitions that are aesthetically pleasing and allow the user the flexibility they require.
One such option is Modernfold’s popular Acousti-Clear® Glass Walls product line—designed with sleek aluminum and glass with industry leading 51 STC sound separation. Acousti-Clear comes in motorized, automatic, and demountable options. Welch says customers demand more acoustical privacy these days, and Acousti-Clear offers that without skimping on benefits like daylighting.
“You get that clean, modern appearance glass gives you, so from an aesthetic standpoint it is highly desired for today’s modern applications,” he says. “We’re also able to incorporate various privacy options, whether it’s an electrical roller shade or a venetian blind or even our MorphGlas®.”
MorphGlas is Modernfold’s innovative technology that allows you to instantly convert single glass panels from clear to opaque at the touch of a button. “It gives you the option to have the best of both worlds,” Welch says. If you want visibility and daylighting into the building even from a distant conference room, you can do that. Or if you want privacy, you can have that, too, with a simple push of a button.
From the Ground (or Renovation) Up
It may come as no surprise that Welch and colleagues are seeing fewer fixed cubicles and more flexible meeting spaces when it comes to renovations. He said many companies are looking for ways to support work from home and the hybrid work model. “Companies want to have more flexible meeting spaces for the days when specific work groups are in the office. They want to have collaborative spaces. And they want to take out some of the cubicle farms,” he says.
When designing for flexible space, Welch says the most important thing is to consider the whole picture from the start, whether that’s working with a horizontal solution like Modernfold or a vertical product like Skyfold. “They all require structural steel of some magnitude to support them, so really being involved at the time when the structural steel is being designed in is the best way to incorporate them efficiently and make sure the products really work for the architect’s vision and floorplan,” he says. “It’s a lot harder when floor plans are set and then all of a sudden someone says, ‘I’d like to have a flexible wall dividing the space.”
That said, Modernfold also offers a truss system that eliminates the need for overhead support and allows any space to be customized. It’s assembled onsite in easily manageable pieces to allow for easy access into tenant improvement locations. “The Modernfold truss system easily fits into most plenum spaces, so that can be one important piece that will make it easier on a retrofit where structural steel may not have been in place before. We’ve definitely seen advantages to being able to offer that turnkey solution in a renovation project,” Welch says.
Division Equals Productivity
When you can be in a space and have room to do your work, you’re most likely more comfortable than being jammed into a room or stuck in a corner, Welch says. “Obviously Covid makes that even more important in today’s workspaces—having the correct amount of space for people to be safely together to work and be productive is essential for businesses.”
The experts at Modernfold are also seeing a growing demand for work surfaces like large markerboards, which employees say help them be more productive. “We’re seeing a continued growth in floor-to-ceiling, full-height markerboard writing surfaces. Modernfold provides standard markerboard options without any vertical trim, which allows for a highly desired continuous writing surface.”
Welch says modern surfaces combined with tempered glass products you can also write on and easily clean are among some of the fastest growing products. “Instead of an easel pad and flip charts, you can truly have a huge writing surface where you can effectively brainstorm and work together.”
From the Top Down
In Moscow, Skyfold gave an SAP Leonardo Center much more flexibility to get work done. There, architects wanted to make a multifunctional space that could hold public events like conferences as well as business negotiations and meetings dedicated to developing tech products. The challenge was that all parts of the center had to function simultaneously and independently of each other.
“Our project has become the eighth SAP Leonardo Center in the world, but nowhere else is there such a number of functions and such flexible space as Moscow SAP,” says Nikolay Milovidov, managing partner of the architectural bureau UNK project. “We have created both a large conference hall with developed lobbies and an exhibition hall, while we have equipped zones for design thinking, D-Shop, meeting rooms. There is no center in the whole world where all these elements are present at the same time. The uniqueness of the Moscow project lies in the fact that all components of the hub can operate in parallel and completely independently of each other.”
Alastair Cush, managing director at Skyfold, says the company’s vertical folding solutions offer architects acoustic privacy and a high-end aesthetic choice, as Skyfold essentially disappears into the ceiling at the push of a button. You’d never even know it was there.
“It can be deployed quickly, easily, and safely with very minimum effort,” Cush says. “Its most obvious use case is that a meeting room can be divided into small meeting rooms within minutes without any labor. It allows for more dynamic management of space and probably a more efficient and profitable use of space.”
And with more companies looking at how to design collaborative, flexible space, Cush says Skyfold is also seeing increased interest in solutions for common areas where people can meet safely and share ideas—like cafeterias, lobbies, or hallways that can become function areas.
“Skyfold is perfectly installed every time,” Cush says. “Motorized seals extend and the walls come into the perfect position. That allows us to have a very high acoustic performance, so that you could have a book club quietly discussing books on one side and a lively debate or even a small concert on the other.”
Health, Happiness, & Beauty
“At Modernfold and Skyfold we can divide space, provide daylighting, and also have a very high acoustic performance,” Cush says.
Natural light is among one of the biggest contributors to employee well-being, according to a study from Workplace Wellness Study conducted by Future Workplace. Both Modernfold and Skyfold build in plenty of opportunities for daylighting.
“A lot of spaces are built out with conference rooms along an exterior wall. If you have conference rooms surrounded in glass, that daylighting extends deeper into the building, so not only is it good for people in the space to be along the window, but people who are deeper into the building also get the benefit of the daylight coming in,” Welch says.
Modernfold’s ComfortDrive® Automated Self Driving Panel System can be moved to a variety of individually pre-programmed positions under fully automatic control. The control interface takes the form of a user-friendly touch pad that can be programmed to maximize space. “You can do everything from have it all stacked away and the room completely open to having it completely closed and you’ve divided a room,” Welch says. “Or you can have other configurations—a partially divided space, or leave a gap in a certain area of traffic flow, depending on your needs. It gives you that ability to custom program.”
Once you have your configurations, the room quite literally transforms in minutes when you press the button. “Nobody needs to move and place the panels into position because the system does it for you.”
Daylighting is possible with vertical solutions, too. Skyfold’s Mirage is lightweight and incorporates clean lines and a wide range of glass and plexiglass panels, so hallways and windows can still lend their light to dark, isolated spaces.
One of Skyfold’s most exciting new products, Cush says, is Zenith Premium, as it has a unique way of folding and takes up very little space with no track or system on the floor. “When it’s closed it completely seals the ceiling with no visible hole or pocket,” Cush says. “It’s a huge advantage to the user of the space because when the space is divided it looks completely clean.” Zenith Premium is ideal for spaces with obstructions like heavy furniture and tighter spaces that would otherwise limit the use of a vertically folding retractable wall.
With high-end designer finishes and color choices, the options are endless when it comes to design. “In some cases a designer may want the wall to blend in and be part of the surroundings, and in some cases we find designers want to take the operable partitions and make them a focal point in the room with bold colors, murals, or high-end finishes that really highlight the space,” Welch says. “We apply a lot of that in the factory so when it goes to the field it can be quickly installed without the delay to the construction schedule.”
At the end of the day, both Modernfold and Skyfold solutions are environmentally friendly solutions for making better spaces. Skyfold products are made up of components like fabrics made from recycled ocean plastic waste, 100% recycled gypsum, and water-based adhesives while, in the company’s manufacturing process, they recycle steel and aluminum chips, turn wood pallets into useful mulch, and capture and reuse oils.
Skyfold’s acoustic vertically folding operable walls are also made using up to 97% recycled materials, giving projects the chance to earn LEED points, and contribute toward WELL Certification in several categories. Modernfold and Skyfold’s glass dividers are easy to clean and sanitize, too, furthering a mission of health, wellness, and green living.