Work and living environments have changed significantly over the past two decades, and those shifting needs show no sign of slowing. Companies have changed office layouts in attempts to keep their employees happy and productive. Apartment demands have gone up as millennials are waiting longer to purchase a home and more seniors are downsizing.
Investors can struggle to stay relevant if they aren't able to adapt to the market demands and tenant expectations. One solution is for investors to become more fluid by using a flexible wall, or "flex wall," system.
What is a flex wall?
A flex wall is a temporary wall that can be easily installed, removed, and reconfigured. Most flex walls are installed by using pressure instead of being attached to other walls. They're used to divide spaces to create extra rooms or offices.
The main appeal of flex walls is that they provide a simple, quick way to reconfigure a space. Instead of dealing with the headache of constructing a permanent wall, you can install a flex wall and be ready to go in a single day.
As the needs for the space change, the walls can easily be taken down and reconfigured. This allows for a lot more flexibility than standard construction offers.
Flex wall uses
You can put up a flexible wall in pretty much any type of space. They can be useful in both commercial and residential properties.
Temporary walls first became popular in office spaces. They allowed companies to adjust the space around changes in staff sizes and new processes instead of having to work around the existing space.
Flex walls are also useful for commercial landlords. They allow them to easily give new tenants a space to fit their specific needs without the expense of completely remodeling an office suite for each new tenant. They also allow landlords to have a space ready for a new tenant in their building much quicker than they could with standard construction.
Colleges and universities
As education programs are changed and added, the space requirements also change. Similar to office spaces, the living and working quarters for students and faculty can adjust as needs dictate, without being restricted by the current configuration. Instead, spaces can be reconfigured with wall partitions so classes and administrative offices can make the most of each given space.
Flex walls have recently become quite popular in apartments, mostly in larger cities like New York, where landlords have to maximize space as much as possible. A temporary wall system allows one floorplan to be used as either a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment. It can also let an apartment be used as either a studio with a large living room or a one-bedroom unit.
New tenants don't have to be turned away because they need a two-bedroom apartment when there are only one-bedroom units available. Management companies can use flex walls to quickly reconfigure a space to accommodate these renters.
A flex wall can be a great option for a homeowner to divide space to make a home office, toy room, or any type of new room that's needed. A new bedroom can even be easily added to a finished basement.
Types of flex walls
There are a wide variety of wall styles available, depending on the user's needs and budget. Some walls are simple floor-to-ceiling solid panels used to serve the basic need of dividing a space. Others are designed to fit specific uses or to give a modern look to a room.
Pressure-fit wall panels
A standard flex-wall system is made of prefabricated panels that are pressure fit between the floor and ceiling. The panels come in a number of styles and with different features.
A wall panel can be vinyl wrapped or made of veneer, glass, recycled material, or a number of other materials. Wall panels can have windows or a clerestory at the top to allow natural light to come through. A swing door or sliding door can be added as well.
Another feature of the wall panel system is a wall cavity for running electrical wiring and telephone and data lines. They can also be filled with sound-proofing insulation to cut down on noise transfer.
A freestanding wall can have many of the same designs and features as a wall panel, but it doesn't go all the way to the ceiling. These are also commonly referred to as room dividers. Instead of being pressure fit, they have to be attached to a second wall at a 90-degree angle, to exterior walls, or to the ceiling with cables.
The benefit to this type of wall is the added flexibility. A wall panel can only be adjusted so much when being moved to an area with a different ceiling height. The freestanding walls can be reused almost anywhere.
A bookcase wall is commonly seen in residential uses. Just like it sounds, it's a wall that is also used as a bookshelf on one, or both, sides.
This type of wall has very little flexibility when it comes to ceiling height, so they're most commonly installed similar to a freestanding wall with a gap at the top. The bookshelf wall provides an additional use and adds a modern look to the space.
One company, EverBlock, actually created a wall system made of stackable plastic blocks. These blocks are like giant legos and can be stacked and configured in almost any way imaginable.
This type of wall is extremely flexible, since it can be built to fit any space. However, it does have the same limitations as a freestanding wall, since it can't be pressure fit between the floor and ceiling. There will most likely be a gap at the top, and it will need to be attached to a second or permanent wall.
Pros and cons of using a flexible wall
Flex walls are a great alternative to permanent walls, but they aren't necessarily right for every situation. With the benefits of a temporary wall system, there are also drawbacks.