Guide to Partitions, Screens & Shields

Partitions, screens, and shields (aka protective barriers) are playing a critical role in mitigating the spread of pathogens and contagious disease. As we return to work, school, and some degree of normalcy, the need for these products will be even greater. Not only to provide protection, but to support a perceived sense of safety and privacy that people have come accustomed to over the past year.

Partition Types

The partition market has experienced a burst of innovation. A wide range of solutions are available for every situation. Here is a quick overview of the popular variations.

Workstation panel stacker line art

Panel Stackers are partitions specifically designed to extend the height of workstation walls. These partitions “stack" on the existing workstation dividers for added protection and/or privacy. For adjacent stacker panels, connectors should be utilized to add stability and ensure alignment.

Freestanding protective desktop partition for desks, tables, or workstations

Freestanding Desktop Partitions are single self-supporting panels that can be positioned on any work area to provide an additional barrier within a workstation configuration or on any shared work surface.

Tabletop protective partition for six seating locations

Table Dividers are partition configurations that provide individualized protective spaces across a table surface. A range of configurations are available to accommodate table shape and size. Consideration should be given to installation methodology and panel connectors.

Freestanding protective floor-mounted partition

Freestanding Partitions are self-supporting partitions that can be positioned on floors wherever protection or privacy is desired.

Edge-mount desktop partition

Surface Mounted Partitions, as the name suggests mount in place. They are useful in locations where stability is required such as the edge of a desk, counter, etc.

Portable protective desktop shield for scholls and students

Portable Desk Shields are lightweight, movable partitions that are intended to be used by a single individual who takes the partition with them for personal protection.

Three-sided protective desktop shield

Three-sided Desk Shields are designed for spaces in which appropriate distancing can not be achieved. They provide fixed protection on each desk surface. Consideration should be given to assembly methodology and panel connectors.

Hanging protective partition

Hanging Partitions are suspended from ceilings to provide protective barriers where supporting or mounting surfaces are not available.

Partition Material Options

It's important to understand how each partition material option performs in relation to the intended application. Consider specifications such as impact/shatter resistance, scratch resistance, weight, stability/rigidity, fire performance, and aesthetic potential.

Detail photo of acrylic partition

Acrylic

  • General: Acrylic is a transparent plastic with glass-like qualities and exceptional strength, stiffness, shine, and clarity. The material is only half the weight of glass, but offers many times the impact resistance.
  • Shatter Resistance: While 17x more impact resistant than glass, not as impact resistant as polycarbonate or PETG.
  • Scratch Resistance: The most scratch resistant of the clear plastics because of its hardness. Both polycarbonate and PETG are softer than acrylic, and as a result, are far more prone to scratching.
  • Weight: Half the weight of glass. Similar to PC and PETG at similar thicknesses.
  • Stabililty/Rigidity: Because it is harder than PETG or PC, Acrylic is more stable and rigid than the other clear plastics.This means acrylic screens stand straighter and sag less than screens made out of PC or PETG.
  • Typical Thickness and Size Limitations: Typical thickness is 7/32" - ¼". Typical height and width limits for desking panels are 23.5" and 47", respectively. Not recommended for freestanding partitions.
  • Fire Performance: At standard thickness, acrylic conforms to the CC2 combustibility classification under the requirements of the International Building Code Chapter 26, Section 2606.4.For more information see "Fire Performance."
  • Cleanability: Household disinfectants are recommended. Avoid glass cleaners, they may cause damage.
Detail photo of polycarbonate partition

Polycarbonate

  • General: Polycarbonate is a transparent, stiff, and strong thermoplastic with outstanding impact resistance (“shatterproof"). In comparison to acrylic, this material offers greater clarity but is more susceptible to scratching/denting.
  • Shatter Resistance: Polycarbonate is by far the most impact resistant of the clear plastic partition options - 10x more impact resistant than PETG, 30x more impact resistant than acrylic and 200x more impact resistant than glass.
  • Scratch Resistance: Because polycarbonate is softer than acrylic or PETG, it is more likely to scratch.
  • Weight: Half the weight of glass. Similar to acrylic and PETG at similar thicknesses.
  • Stability/Rigidity: Because polycarbonate is softer than acrylic, it is less stable and more likely to bend or warp than the harder, more rigid acrylic.The lack of stability/rigidity can result in a diminished aesthetic because the screens will bow, warp, or fail to look straight.
  • Typical Thickness and Size Limitations: Polycarbonate is a substitute material for acrylic in our partition systems. Size limitations are the same, however the aesthetic appeal is second to acrylic for larger panels.
  • Fire Performance: At standard thickness, polycarbonate conforms to the CC1 combustibility classification under the requirements of the International Building Code Chapter 26, Section 2606.4. For more information see "Fire Performance."
  • Cleanability: Household disinfectants are recommended.
Detail of PETG materail in the form of a portable desktop shield

PETG

  • General: PETG is a transparent plastic with good impact resistance, durability, and can be FDA compliant. PETG has a slight tint and is susceptible to scratching.
  • Shatter Resistance: PETG is not as impact or shatter resistant as polycarbonate but more impact and shatter resistant than glass or even acrylic.
  • Scratch Resistance: Because PETG is softer than acrylic, it is more likely to scratch. However, it is less susceptible to scratching than polycarbonate.
  • Weight: Half the weight of glass. Similar to acrylic and polycarbonate at similar thicknesses.
  • Stability/Rigidity: Because PETG is softer than acrylic, it is less stable and more likely to bend or warp than the harder, more rigid acrylic.The lack of stability/rigidity can result in a diminished aesthetic because the screens will bow, warp, or fail to look straight.
  • Typical Thickness and Size Limitations: Typically .030" thick. PETG is too flexible to be used as an individual panel. As a tri-folded shield, faces can be up to 23.5" x 23.5".
  • Fire Performance: At standard thickness, PETG conforms to the CC1 combustibility classification under the requirements of the International Building Code Chapter 26, Section 2606.4. For more information see "Fire Performance."
  • Cleanability: Household disinfectants are recommended.
Detail photo of glass for protective partitions

Glass

  • General: Glass is used as a partition material most frequently when the partition is more permanent in nature. Glass is heavier, more fragile, but more scratch resistant and stable/rigid than the clear plastic alternatives.
  • Shatter Resistance: Glass is by far the most fragile of the partition materials. For example, acrylic is 17x stronger and polycarbonate is 200x stronger. The fragility of glass adds to the cost of glass due to the increased cost of packaging and breakage in transit and during install.
  • Scratch Resistance: Due to the hardness of glass compared to the clear plastics, glass is more scratch resistant than any of the clear plastic alternatives.
  • Weight: Glass is 2x the weight of the clear plastics at similar thicknesses. The weight means that shipping and install costs tend to be higher because it requires more effort to transport and lift the partitions. It also means that glass partitions require mechanical fastening when used on workstations or cubicles, which necessarily causes damage to the furniture. As a result, these tend to be used as permanent alterations.
  • Stability/Rigidity: Glass is more stable and rigid than any of the clear plastic alternatives which means it will stand straighter and be less susceptible to warping, bowing, or leaning.
  • Typical Thickness and Size Limitations: .25" - .5" thick. size limitations vary significantly by mounting method. Geometry limitations are job specific.
  • Fire Performance: Dependent on fire rating. See "Fire Performance."
  • Cleanability: Glass cleaners applied with a soft towel are recommended.
Detail of acoustic panel material for protective partitions

Acoustic Paneling

  • General: Acoustic panels can be made out of several materials. The most common are made out of a plastic called PET. These rigid panels have a soft feel and are subtley textured. One of the unique advantages of acoustic paneling is that they help control sound within a space by absorbing sound waves as they travel through the material.
  • Shatter/Impact Resistance: While acoustic panels will bend under enough force, they are nearly impossible to break. Because of their soft texture these panels absorb impact very well and display tremendous resiliency.
  • Scratch Resistance: Acoustic paneling hides scratching very well.Because they are soft, they can be easy to scratch, however, only aggressive scratches will be visible. This durability makes them a better choice for long term application than any of the clear plastics, which can accumulate damage over time through improper cleaning and general wear and tear.
  • Weight: Acoustic paneling is far lighter than and of the clear plastics, glass, ACM, or laminate panels. This makes the material easier to transport, lift, and install.
  • Stability/Rigidity: The light weight of acoustic paneling makes it less likely to warp or bow under its own weight like clear plastics do at modest sizes or ACM and laminate panels at larger sizes.
  • Typical Thickness and Size Limitations: Acoustic paneling is typically .5", which is 2x thicker than the typical clear plastics, glass, ACM, and laminate panels.
  • Fire Performance: Class A Fire Rated.
  • Cleanability: Household disinfectants are recommended.
Detail of Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) for protective partitions

ACM

  • General: ACM (Aluminum Composite Material) is a rigid panel made of two sheets of pre-finished aluminum, bonded to a polyethylene core. ACM is light-weight without sacrificing durability, dimensional stability, or aesthetic quality. ACM accommodates additional decoration through printing and other means.
  • Shatter/Impact Resistance: A flexible core and aluminum faces make ACM a very impact-resistant material.
  • Scratch Resistance: Our ACM products have a scratch-resistant coating made to withstand daily wear and tear.
  • Weight: 25% heavier than Acrylic
  • Stability/Rigidity: More rigid than acrylic, less rigid than a laminate panel.
  • Typical Thickness and Size Limitations: Typically 4mm or 6mm thick. Size limitations for panel stackers are typically 47"W x 23.5" H. However, ACM is a suitable material for larger freestanding panels that can be up to 47"W x 78" H.
  • Fire Performance: Class A Fire Rated
  • Cleanability: Household disinfectants are recommended.
Protective workstation stacker partition panel with high-pressure laminate finish

Laminate Panels

  • General: High-Pressure Laminates (HPL) are durable decorative surface materials available in a wide variety of colors, patterns, styles, and textures. This category of architectural finish is often specified for countertops, desktops, etc. but as a partition material offers a extensive options to complement the aesthetic of the space.
  • Shatter/Impact Resistance: Similar to ACM – a flexible core protected by rigid faces make our laminate components very impact resistant.
  • Scratch Resistance: Varies by laminate, generally resistant to light abrasion and normal wear.
  • Weight: About the same as ACM. Heavier than Acrylic, lighter than glass.
  • Stability/Rigidity: Very stiff, similar to glass.
  • Typical Thickness and Size Limitations: There are two laminate faces adhered to a ¼" core. Typical assembled thickness is .32".
  • Fire Performance: Class A Fire Rated
  • Cleanability: Household disinfectants are recommended.

Installation considerations

Brackets and installation methodology vary greatly and have significant impact on furniture integrity and overall partition budget. Installation methods range from nondestructive tool-free options that require no drilling or additional hardware to those that are affixed in place with a range of hardware like screws and clamps. Consideration should be given to the installation methods long-term impact on furniture.

Additionally, consider how installation time will impact the overall cost of your partition budget. Installation cost should be factored in to the overall cost.

Detail of installation adapter for protective stacker partition for a workstation
Detail of panel connector for protective partitions

Connectors

Adjacent partition panels installed in series or at corners are most effective when stabilized and aligned by connectors that link the panels together.

Fire Performance

One issue that's easily overlooked when purchasing partitions and shields is compliance with building and fire codes.When selecting partition materials, here are the code-related issues to consider:

Partitions, Plastics, and Fire Code Requirements
COVID-19 has organizations working to make their spaces safer for the people that move through them. Partitioning is an effective way to provide infection control, but there may be fire codes to take into consideration. When selecting partition materials, here are some code-related observations to consider:

There are no clear plastics on the market that are Class A fire rated under Chapter 8 of IBC. Not acrylic. Not polycarbonate. Not PETG. The material doesn't exist (at least at any practical thickness to use for partitions). So, if a project requires that panels must be Class A fire rated, then clear plastic materials are not viable options – regardless if from Takeform or another source. Moxie or Oomph is the appropriate Class A material to specify.

Partitions defined as “furnishings" The consensus is that temporary desktop and panel top partitions are classified as “furnishings." That's an important detail, because furnishings do not show up in the building codes and aren't subject to Class A fire rating. Acrylic may be used for these specific temporary applications without issue.

Light Transmitting Plastics If the code officer doesn't consider clear acrylic partitions as “furnishings", this should not be of concern because the appropriate code is in Chapter 26 IBC – Plastics. Specifically, Section 2606.4 for Light Transmitting Plastics, to which both Polycarbonate and Acrylic meet the required self-ignition temperature, smoke density, and burn rates.

Freestanding Partitions Generally, free standing partitions fall into Chapter 8 and may need to be Class A fire rated. However, size, weight, and the discretion of the local code enforcement authority will all be factors in the code requirements for Freestanding partitions. Partitions, as discussed in this context, are not affixed or ground mounted barriers – portability is inherent to their design and purpose. When looking for an all-acrylic/transparent partition, consideration should be given to the aforementioned factors. If Class A fire rating is preferred/required ACM or Acoustic Panel should be the material specified.

Partition Planning Considerations

Partitions are simple products, but for certain applications there are important details to keep in mind when planning to equip your space. Here are a few partition types that have specific considerations to keep in mind.

Desktop partitions

  • Thickness of desktop
  • Obstacles attached to edges of desk. For example, monitor arm assembly or technology port junction box (ex: power and internet ports unit).
  • Distance between frame on underside of desktop and edge of desktop that may prevent clamping to desktop.
  • Distance between adjacent workstations
  • Filing cabinet underneath desk that may impede ability to fasten to desktop.
  • Do cables need to run under partition, thus requiring notch along bottom of panel for cables to pass through?

Panel Stackers

  • Thickness of workstation walls
  • Is workstation wall solid, structurally stable (ex: must be secure, not loose, and cannot be a pliable material).
  • Width, height, and detailed shape of workstation wall top cap.
  • Obstacles that may interfere along workstation wall top cap. For example, power poles, cabinets, overhead storage cabinets, nameplates, accessory rails/racks mounted to side of workstation wall just below top cap.
  • Points of intersection or junctions along workstation wall (ex: elbow, 3-way and 4-way intersections where partitions will join together).

Freestanding Desktop Partitions

  • Consider spread/width of the feet/base which will require clearance when set on desktop.
  • Are pass-throughs necessary for exchanging material such as books, papers or mail?

Freestanding Partitions

  • The need for clearance around the unit's legs/base (ex: a task chair, base with casters, if close to legs will bump into legs).

Vertical Market Applications

Partitions are generally used for adding protection and privacy to any built environment, but there are market-specific configurations and applications.

Tabletop partition on square meeting room table

Offices

For business spaces, workstation partitioning in the form of panel stackers and desktop partitions are among the most prevalent applications. Tabletop partitions provide protective individual works spaces for conference rooms, benching scenarios, as well as lunchrooms and break rooms. Freestanding partitions can be positioned to provide privacy and protection throughout the office environment. Shields and screens are effective at reception desks and other spaces where in-person interaction occurs.Additionally, partitions can be specified for specialized applications like temperature check stations.

Healthcare

For Healthcare spaces, also require a diverse range of partitioning. Reception desks, information desks, and nurse's stations require protective shields or screens. Waiting areas and other high-volume seating areas benefit from freestanding partitions as do corridors where traffic flow dictates additional protection. Tabletop screens provide protection in meeting rooms and cafeterias. Administrative and business spaces within the healthcare setting benefit from workstation panel stackers and desktop partitions.

Protective partition used in a healthcare setting
Classroom with protective partitions

Schools

For education spaces, a wide range of specialized partition options have evolved to meet the needs of the diverse environments. For the classroom there are fixed desktop screens and portable desktop shields. For cafeterias, labs, and libraries, tabletop screens can be configured to provide individualized protection for shared work surfaces. Freestanding partitions provide protection in areas where traffic patterns do not meet minimal distancing requirements. Shields also play a role on teacher's desks and on counters in administration offices where face-to-face interactions demand protective barriers.

Learn about Adjoin, Takeform's comprehensive line of partition solutions.

Want to learn more or start preparing your facility for bringing people back? Let us know how we can help.

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