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Subject: Fence, Different types of boundary conditions in fluid dynamics, Privacy, House plan, WARY
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Decorative exterior wall, Mexico City, Mexico, 2008.
A brick wall

A wall is a structure that defines an area, carries a load, or provides shelter or security. There are many kinds of walls such as defensive walls in fortification, walls of buildings which are a fundamental part of the superstructure or which separate the spaces in buildings sections sometimes for the purpose of fire safety, walls which hold back earth called retaining walls, offer protection from oceans such as a seawall or river as a levee. Permanent, solid fences are walls, and border barriers between countries are sometimes walls.


Wall comes from Latin vallum meaning " earthen wall or rampart set with palisades, a row or line of stakes, a wall, a rampart, fortification..." while the Latin word murus meant a defensive stone wall[1] It is notable that English uses the same word to refer to an external wall, and the internal sides of a room. This is by no means universal, and many languages distinguish between the two. In German, some of this distinction can be seen between Wand and Mauer, in Spanish between pared and muro.

Defensive walls

The word wall originally referred to defensive walls and ramparts.

Building walls

Building walls purposes are to support roofs, floors and ceilings, enclose a space as part of the building envelope, along with a roof to give buildings form, and to provide shelter and security. In addition, the wall may house various types of utilities such as electrical wiring or plumbing. Wall construction falls into two basic categories: framed walls or mass-walls. In framed walls the load is transferred to the foundation through posts, columns or studs. Framed walls most often have three or more separate components: the structural elements (such as 2×4 studs in a house wall), insulation, and finish elements or surfaces (such as drywall or panelling). Mass-walls are of a solid material including masonry, concrete including slipform stonemasonry, log building, cordwood construction, adobe, rammed earth, cob, earthbag construction, bottles, tin cans, straw-bale construction, and ice.

Exterior walls may be built with moisture control gaps called a cavity wall, rainscreen.

Building walls frequently become works of art, externally and internally, such as when featuring mosaic work or when murals are painted on them; or as design foci when they exhibit textures or painted finishes for effect.

Curtain walls

In architecture and civil engineering, the term curtain wall refers to the facade of a building which is not a load-bearing wall but functions as decoration, finish, front, face, or history preservation.

Mullion wall

Mullion walls are a structural system in which the load of the floor slab is taken by prefabricated panels around the perimeter.

Partition walls

Glass Partition Wall

A partition wall is a wall for the purpose of separating rooms, or dividing a room. Partition walls are usually not load-bearing.

Partition walls may be constructed of steelpanels, bricks or blocks from clay, terra-cotta or concrete, reinforced, or hollow. Glass blocks may also be used.

They may also be constructed from sheet glass. Glass partition walls are a series of individual toughened glass panels, which are suspended from or slide along a robust aluminium ceiling track.[2] The system does not require the use of a floor guide, which allows easy operation and an uninterrupted threshold.

Timber may be used. This type of partition consists of a wooden framework either supported on the floor below or by side walls. Metal lath and plaster, properly laid, forms a reinforced partition wall. Partition walls constructed from fibre cement sheeting are popular as bases for tiling in kitchens or in wet areas like bathrooms. Galvanized sheet fixed to wooden or steel members are mostly adopted in works of temporary character. Plain or reinforced partition walls may also be constructed from concrete, including pre-cast concrete blocks.

Metal framed partitioning is also available. This partition consists of track (used primarily at the base and head of the partition) and stud (vertical sections fixed at 600mm centres).

Internal wall partitions also known as office partitioning is made using plasterboard (drywall), or varieties of glass. Toughened glass is a common option as it is feasible however there is also low iron glass better known as opti-white glass which increases light and solar heat transmission.

Wall partitions are constructed using beads and tracking which are either hung from the ceiling or fixed into the ground.[3] The panels are inserted into the tracking and fixed.

There are variations of wall partitions which include the level of fire resistance they have, and their acoustic performance rating.

Party walls

Party walls are walls separating different buildings or units within a building. They may be designed to be a sound resistant and/or a fire wall. Ownership of such walls becomes a legal issue.

Fire walls

Fire walls are special walls designed to resist the spread of fire within or sometimes between structures which is called passive fire protection. A delay in the spread of fire gives occupants more time to escape and fire fighters more time to extinguish a fire before it spreads. Such walls have no windows and are made of non-combustible material such as concrete, cement block, brick or fire rated drywall and have wall penetrations sealed with special materials. Doorways in a firewall need to have a rated fire door. Fire walls are designed with varying resistance to the spread of fire, some intended to last one to four hours. Some firewalls are also designed to be smoke barriers.

Shear walls

Shear walls are specially designed walls to resist lateral forces such as in an earthquake or severe wind. There are different kinds of shear walls such as the steel plate shear wall.

Knee walls

Knee walls are short walls which either support rafters or gain height in the top floor level rooms of houses. In a one-and-one-half story house it is the knee wall which is the "half story".

Cavity walls

Cavity walls are walls made with a space between the "skins" to allow drainage.

Pony walls

Pony wall is a general term for short walls which include:

  • A half wall that only extends partway from floor to ceiling, without supporting anything.
  • A stem wall, a concrete wall that extends from the foundation slab to the cripple wall or floor joists.
  • A cripple wall, a framed wall that extends from the stem wall or foundation slab to the floor joists.
  • A knee wall, which extends from the floor to a countertop, rafter, or handrail.

Movable partitions

Movable partitions are used where the walls of a room are frequently opened to form one large floor area. In this system, there are several types of partitions which include;

  • Sliding: Sliding partitions consists of series of panels that slide in tracks fixed to the floor and ceiling. The machine of the partition is similar to those of sliding doors.
  • Sliding & folding: Sliding and folding partitions operate in a similar manner to sliding folding doors. They are normally used for smaller spans.
  • Screens: Screens are usually constructed of a metal or timber frame. It is fixed with plywood and chipboard inside. The screen supported with legs for free standing and easy movement.
  • Pipe and drape: Fixed or telescopic uprights and horizontals provide a ground supported drape system with removable panels.

Solar energy

A trombe wall in passive solar building design acts as a heat sink.


On a ship, the walls separating compartments are termed "bulkheads", whilst the thinner walls separating cabins are termed "partitions".

Boundary walls

Stone wall of an English barn

Boundary walls include privacy walls, boundary-marking walls on property and town walls. These intergrade into fences; the conventional differentiation is that a fence is of minimal thickness and often is open in nature, while a wall is usually more than a nominal thickness and is completely closed, or opaque. More to the point, if an exterior structure is made of wood or wire, it is generally referred to as a fence, while if it is made of masonry, it is considered a wall. A common term for both is barrier, convenient if it is partly a wall and partly a fence, for example the Berlin Wall. Another kind of wall/fence ambiguity is the ha-ha which is set below ground level, so as not to interrupt a view yet acting as a barrier to cattle for example.

An old Italian wall surrounded by flowers

Before the invention of artillery, many of the world's cities and towns, particularly in Europe and Asia, had defensive or protective walls (also called town walls or city walls). In fact, the English word "wall" is derived from Latin vallum, which was a type of fortification wall. Since they are no longer relevant for defense, such cities have grown beyond their walls, and many of the walls, or portions thereof, have been torn down, for example in Rome, Italy and in Beijing, China. Examples of protective walls on a much larger scale include the Great Wall of China and Hadrian's Wall.

Border walls

Some walls are designed to formally separate the border between one population and another. A border wall is constructed to limit the movement of people across a certain line or border. These structures vary in placement with regard to international borders and topography. The most famous example of border barrier in history is probably the Great Wall of China, a series of walls separating the Empire of China from nomadic powers to the north; the most prominent recent example was the Berlin Wall that surrounded the enclave of West Berlin, separating it from East Germany, during most of the Cold War era.

Retaining walls

Dry-stone wall - Grendon
Ashlar wall - Inca wall at Machu Picchu, Peru
View of the western enclosing wall of the Great Mosque of Kairouan (also called the Mosque of Uqba) in the city of Kairouan in Tunisia.

In areas of rocky soils around the world, farmers have often pulled large quantities of stone out of their fields to make farming easier and have stacked those stones to make walls that either mark the field boundary, or the property boundary, or both.

Retaining walls are a special type of wall, that may be either external to a building or part of a building, that serves to provide a barrier to the movement of earth, stone or water. The ground surface or water on one side of a retaining wall will be noticeably higher than on the other side. A dike is one type of retaining wall, as is a levee, a load-bearing foundation wall, and a sea wall.

Shared walls

Special laws often govern walls shared by neighbouring properties. Typically, one neighbour cannot alter the common wall if it is likely to affect the building or property on the other side. A wall may also separate apartment or hotel rooms from each other. Each wall has two sides and breaking a wall on one side will break the wall on the other side.

Portable walls

Portable walls, such as room dividers or portable partitions, are used to take a large open space and effectively divide it into smaller rooms. Portable walls can be static such as cubicle walls, or they can be wall panels mounted on casters to provide an easy way to reconfigure assembly space. They are often found inside schools, churches, convention centers, hotels and corporate facilities.

Walls in popular culture

Walls are often seen in many popular cultures, representing barriers preventing progress or entry. For example, the progressive/psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd used a metaphorical wall to represent the isolation felt by the protagonist of their 1979 concept album The Wall. American poet laureate Robert Frost describes a pointless rock wall as a metaphor for the myopia of the culture-bound in his poem "Mending Wall", published in 1914. In a real-life example, the Berlin Wall, constructed by the Soviet Union to divide Berlin into NATO and Warsaw Pact zones of occupation, became a worldwide symbol of oppression and isolation.

In some cases, a wall may refer to an individual's debilitating mental or physical condition, seen as an impassable barrier.

Another common usage is as a communal surface to write upon. For instance the social networking site Facebook previously used an electronic "wall" to log the scrawls of friends until it was replaced by the "timeline" feature.

See also


  1. ^ Wall. Whitney, William Dwight, and Benjamin E. Smith. The Century dictionary and cyclopedia, vol. 8. New York: Century Co., 1901. 6,809. Print.
  2. ^ "PARTITION WALL". Principles of Design. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Partition Walls". Excellence in craftsmanship. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 

External links

  • The dictionary definition of wall at Wiktionary
  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
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