WALLS & ROOFS looks at the influence of demountable and drywall systems in the office environment.

Today’s discerning architects and designers are faced with a range of options for interior walling applications. The majority of these are demountable and moveable partitioning systems and drywall or board options. Here we explore the benefits of using them in your next project.
Modular perception
Demountable office partitions have a range of flexible uses. As these partitions offer an easy way to manage space strategically, they can be customised to tenants’ specific needs with relative ease. Moreover they are cost-effective and present an environmentally savvy alternative to permanent walls.

Today’s fast-moving corporate environment calls for equally fast-paced change when it comes to office tenants’ needs. Demountable floor-to-ceiling office partitions are movable and reusable. They are less intrusive and disruptive than conventional construction and drywall methods. Moreover, the fast-growing need for this flexible wall solution is driven by a push for sustainable building design.

Dean Armstrong, managing director of Ergo System emphasises that after the erection of the drywall, the structure becomes part of the building. Drywalls are therefore structurally integrated or physically incorporated into the building.

Armstrong explains that modular partitions are reusable, demountable and designed to meet the ever-changing needs of the marketplace. Other advantages include acting as psychological barriers that allow users their own subjective space, privacy from main passageways, acoustic qualities, reticulation and flexibility.

Move, mix and match
A working environment that incorporates demountable wall partitions can be installed according to a company’s needs. The ability to move partitioning around eradicates the need for additional construction to be carried out.

Unlike other building alternatives, demountable partitioning systems do not require any wet products to be used during the installation process. There is a vast collection of demountable partitioning systems that allow companies to cater for their individual needs. Products are often manufactured to accommodate a variety of finishes like painted board, melamine, wallpaper, veneered panels, as well as single or double glazing. Most demountable wall systems can be installed on top of carpets and under the ceiling structure.

Modular systems allow allocation of space based on function, as these systems can enable the rapid transfer of information between employees, making a company more agile and competitive.

Lower long-term costs
As mainstream construction materials have continued to become more expensive, demountable partitions have become an attractive, viable and cost-effective alternative.

Although the wall system may initially prove to be more expensive than traditional office walls, the fact that it can be re-used, relocated and adapted can help to save money over the long term.

Moreover, demountable systems are not fixtures and can therefore be listed as capital expenditure.

In an Ergosystem report regarding the tax implications of installing drywalls, it is highlighted that there are capital allowances available for the erection of such walls, referring to a building allowance granted in terms of section 13 of the Income Tax Act.

The report mentions that drywalls are often erected to create separate offices in an administration building, which becomes problematic from a tax point of view. In order to obtain the building allowance granted, the building must be primarily used (more than 50%) for manufacturing processes.

Modular systems like Ergosystem are able to provide significant indirect cost-saving opportunities, such as partitioning support worktops, being able to move the systems as desired, and tax-detuctible furniture items and demountable systems can often be leased due to their capital nature and sold as aluminium content.

Eco appeal
As with all building systems, “eco” is an attractive word in the demountable walling industry. The materials that are used are reusable and recyclable. Installation and renovation is essentially dust-free, improving air quality.

Acoustic performance
According to a report by Acentech Acoustic Consultants, there is a belief that demountable and moveable walls do not provide the same acoustical separation and performance as closed offices and divided rooms.

The report states that designers have little control over factors such as loud employees or sensitive listeners. This can be improved, however, by using “blocking” and “covering up” techniques in the design, which may assist in the mitigation of any acoustic concerns associated with modular wall construction.

Another important factor in managing acoustic insulation in flexible walling applications is to keep in mind the importance of using contractors who understand how these seals work and how to implement them properly during the installation. Together with glass or Plexiglas, these constructions have the benefit of blocking sound transmission and distributing daylight.

Current sustainability rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) often do not define an acoustical credit in its requirements. Architects need to be more dedicated to acoustic regulations from the start, rather than having to do “acoustic remediation” at a later stage.


Demountable walls:

  • Optimise existing premises by customising existing space for different projects.
  • Reduce the cost of contracted manual labour and additional spending on building.
  • Alter facilities without major disruption to daily work processes.
  • Transform a facility within a few hours.

The case for drywalls
Saint-Gobain Gyproc describes drywalls as a system made by thermally treating raw gypsum. The material is then mixed with a variety of ingredients making the boards lightweight, fire-resistant and offering the added benefit of optimal acoustic performance ratings, which has led to the increased popularity of the boards’ use in modern construction projects.

Cost-effective walling
Drywall construction offers numerous benefits. Suitable for both residential and commercial projects, it is a cost-effective and easy manner of installing a wall with high specifications for the discerning project developer.

Unlimited creative options
Other benefits include the ability to run the services in the wall cavity, its acoustic performance, its fire-resistance and the versatility to create interesting lines with sharp edges in a variety of finishes ranging from paint to plaster and wallpaper – the options are endless.

Drywalling comes in a range of product options depending on the specification and application requirements. Due to its characteristics, it is suitable for a wide range of applications ranging from hotels to hospitals, schools and boardrooms. The technology has developed to such an extent that it can be used in heavy-use areas without fear of damage due to direct impact.

Latest innovations
One of the latest innovations offered by drywall manufacturers include a range that cleans the air, leading to improved air quality and higher productivity. The plasterboard range actively takes VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) and pollutants from the environment and stores them safely as inert compounds in the board for up to 75 years.

Weight benefits
A report by Gyproc, Drywall versus traditional construction systems, highlights the fact that drywall systems are able to offer a number of benefits. Drywall systems have been designed to achieve a 240-minute fire rating. The weight of drywall system boards is between22-96kg/m² versus 200-480kg/m² weight of traditional bricks and mortar. In addition, the use of water in the installation of drywall systems is minimal and the construction time is estimated at approximately 12-58m² per day compared to approximately 8-16m² daily when using traditional methods.

“Drywall systems offer a number of additional benefits to property developments, including up to 12,5m maximum allowable height, as opposed to the traditional construction method height restriction of 4,6m. Drywall systems are durable, aesthetically pleasing and offer the added benefit of design flexibility based on the fact that they do not require foundations, making any renovation a simple process,” states the report.


Drywall boards are:

  • Environmentally-friendly.
  • High-specification products with air-cleaning capability, high fire-resistance and  good acoustic properties.
  • Flexible, lightweight and easy to install.
  • Décor and design flexible for the discerning and creative designer.

Object interface
The past: static
The walling industry has long been weighed down with expensive and inflexible floor-to-ceiling partitions. Pre-engineered or pre-manufactured demountable wall partitions preceded the development of flexible demountable wall partitions. This architectural wall strategy fell far short of meeting the flexibility challenges and speed of change of today’s workspace. Often the complicated approach of producing a fixed-panel or a pre-manufactured large panel consisting of large parts and pieces did not fulfil the needs of a rapidly-changing office environment.

The present: a new level of flexibility
Today’s workspaces demand responsiveness to changing technology and an improved use of space that is at the same time acoustically sound and flexible. This innovative wall approach delivers a field-fit or field-adaptable approach that can help tenants to manage space strategically. New-generation office walling redefines flexibility. In particular, it provides a multi-functional and beneficial solution to fixed construction.

Ultimately, true flexibility encompasses simplicity, affordability and aesthetics with a strong focus on the environment. As such, manufacturers should focus on selling a solution that supports an ever-changing personality and culture of a particular workspace.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Saint-Gobain Gyproc, www.gyproc.co.za; www.facilities.net, www.nxtwall.com, Ergosystem and Acentech for providing the information to write this article.