The 2010 Aluminum Code has new criteria for considering the unbraced length of open sections. The unbraced length for a vertical mullion is usually considered to be the distance between horizontal mullions. However, design wind load charts put out by many manufactures of storefront systems are often based on the assumption that the mullion has full lateral buckling support and an unbraced length of zero. How can this be?
I believe that the manufacturers are considering lateral bracing from the glass and the mechanical gaskets. However, after review of many industry specs it is clear that mechanical gaskets should not be considered as a means of lateral bracing for open shaped storefront mullions. Therefore, the charts error on the side of being too liberal. When it comes to the calculations, they can’t match up and the mullions usually don’t perform as well as the charts indicate.
Unfortunately, it’s in the interest of the manufactures to keep the charts the same because they are competing against one another for framing systems with the highest performance standards.
Glaziers should keep this in mind when selecting open shaped vertical mullions and stay well under the curve projections that are indicated. If glaziers use the charts, as is, reinforcing structural glazing or heavier mullions will likely be needed.