Inspirational College Learning Spaces: The Power of Exterior Retractable Glass Walls

By NanaWall Systems, August 30, 2023

exterior retractable glass walls

There are several design aspects that differentiate college classrooms from the traditional K-12 environment. Firstly, classrooms in colleges are often more significant to accommodate a larger student body, and even libraries and cafeterias have been tailored to higher capacities As we adapt to the demands of 21st Century education, universities are beginning to leverage the benefits of indoor/outdoor learning spaces with design solutions like exterior retractable glass walls. These easily operable systems not only maximize square footage but also reap the health and wellness benefits of the outdoors. As a result, students are drawn to these bright and airy spaces to enjoy a quiet study session or to socialize with their fellow classmates. 

Benefit of Exterior Retractable Glass Walls in Learning Spaces 

The benefit of natural light and fresh air in classrooms is paramount. Recent studies have found that these natural elements improve students' attention and retention and overall mood and energy levels. As a bonus, embracing natural light with exterior retractable glass walls decreases reliance on artificial lighting and air conditioning, which in return decreases costs and promotes eco-friendly practices. Opening glass walls offer the thinnest frames in the market, allowing for more glass that maximizes sunlight while flexible panels can be fully or partially opened for ventilation. In high-traffic areas like cafeterias and libraries, wide openings facilitate traffic flow while increasing the available square footage. 

single track sliding exterior retractable glass walls

Customizable to Every Aesthetic 

There’s nothing that brings the student body together like school pride, so why not have your exterior retractable glass walls match your school colors? NanaWall opening glass walls are fully customizable to the building parameters and aesthetics of every college campus, from frame material to inswing or outswing configurations. In addition, folding, sliding, and minimal sliding systems can be customized with double or triple glazed panes depending on energy efficiency needs and climate. Moreover, these systems can be customized with various sound control ratings up to a system sound transmission class (STC) 45 to minimize sound distractions during important lectures or test days. 

university of hawaii with NanaWall exterior retractable glass walls

1. An Immersive Experience at the University of Hawaii

What better way to optimize the student experience than with an immersive indoor/outdoor Hawaiian experience? The tropical campus boasts an impressive combination of both folding and sliding exterior retractable glass walls to optimize its prime oceanside location. Three multi-paneled single track sliding systems, featuring open corners, were applied to the second, third, and fourth floors at the University of Hawaii’s Cancer Center, providing clear views of the coastline below. Two additional folding glass walls are leveraged in a multi-purpose hall to maximize space when hosting lectures or events. Students can find a truly immersive experience at every corner.

folding exteriors retractable glass walls

2. Indoor/Outdoor Cafeteria at Arizona Western College

College learning spaces often extend beyond the traditional lecture hall.  Common areas like cafeterias and libraries offer students the opportunity to network and collaborate with their fellow classmates. These spaces are also ideal for taking well-deserved breaks from the grind of busy schedules, so why not enhance them with the indoor/outdoor experience? At Arizona Western College’s cafeteria, the multi-paneled opening glass walls not only create a relaxing, bright and airy lunch spot, but they also facilitate traffic in and out of the busy space—the best of both worlds.

Generation 4 exterior retractable glass wall systems

3. Open-Air Study Sessions at MIT Hayden Library

MIT’s Hayden Library boasts tall floor-to-ceiling windows that instantly brighten the space while offering views of the verdant courtyard outside. Three opening glass walls are employed to create immersive learning spaces and an ambiance that blurs the lines between indoors and outdoors. At the same time, interiors are flushed with fresh air ventilation to promote energetic interiors, creating a vibrant space for collaborative projects or quick study sessions. Best of all, the systems’ aluminum frames perfectly match the rest of the existing fenestration for a seamless, barely-there effect.

aluminum framed exterior retractable glass walls

4. Indoor/Outdoor Auditorium at West Valley College

The Campus Center at West Valley College, a central place for students to socialize, eat, and buy school supplies, originally suffered from poor traffic and circulation. To resolve this, the school tore down the existing single-glazed storefront windows and installed ten back-to-back thermally broken exterior retractable glass walls. The systems have transformed the space into a multipurpose room both for student use and other income-generating events. When the systems are open, the campus center truly becomes an indoor/outdoor gathering space to meet the everyday needs of the college. 

cero by NanaWall exterior retractable glass walls

5. Floor-to-Ceiling Installation at Pomona Valley College

Talk about an eye-turning façade. This multipurpose room at Pomona Valley College leverages the largest opening glass wall panels available to achieve a clean indoor/outdoor threshold. Despite their size, these minimal sliding systems are easy to operate while offering advanced weather performance and durability. Whether open or closed, minimal sightlines offer clear views of events happening inside the building, accommodating larger audiences when needed. In addition, these systems can be customized with sound-rated glass to minimize sound disturbances when needed. Without a doubt, these systems offer minimalism at its best.

acoustical exterior retractable glass walls by NanaWall

6. The Zig-Zag Sliding Glass Wall at Santa Monica College

The flexible nature of opening glass walls can meet even the most unique requests. Minimal sliding glass walls accommodate open corners, posts, and even zig-zag floor tracks like at this Santa Monica College multipurpose room. The panels can be easily moved individually into remote stacks to seamlessly integrate the space into the outdoors, maximize capacity, and facilitate fresh air ventilation. In addition, the panels can be moved into various configurations to facilitate the flow of traffic when needed. The eye-catching configuration enhances the façade of the building with an entertaining design approach that is both elegant and welcoming. 

Final Thoughts

Solutions focused on modern design to enhance the 21st Century learning experience don’t have to be one-dimensional. Exterior retractable glass walls leverage innovative design and aesthetics to elevate learning spaces with the indoor/outdoor experience and optimal space maximization. As a bonus, these systems have been independently tested for air, water, structural, forced entry, and sound control with excellent results. An ideal solution for college institutions focused on ensuring student success and satisfaction while enhancing the functionality of every campus building. 

Discover how other academic institutions leverage NanaWall exterior retractable glass walls in our extensive case study library