Jackson & McElhaney Architects, Austin, Texas

When Ebrahim Nana and his brothers founded Nana Wall Systems in the late '80s, there were just three or four small companies that made sliding and bi-fold glass wall systems, he says. Today, according to Nana, his Mill Valley, Calif., company has more than 50 competitors.

The increased competition has created endless design possibilities that solve increasingly sophisticated architectural problems. One company that has overcome such architectural challenges for more than 20 years, Weiland Sliding Doors and Windows, Oceanside, Calif., has provided glass wall systems for openings up to 80 feet wide and 14 feet high, thanks to European hardware that can lift heavy glass, allowing the use of larger panels, says Sue Weiland, a director and owner of the company. Bob Hutchings, Weiland's director of sales, says, “We've evolved with customer demand; our products have gotten bigger and heavier.”

Nana notes that although the idea of opening glass walls is not new, “the execution of a weather-tight, secure product that is easy to operate and maintain over time is.” NanaWalls now have overhead and floor tracks and weather stripping for superior protection against the elements, being used by remodelers in locations as extreme as Manitoba, Canada. Weiland movable glass walls also have optional built-in drainage systems.

Regions prone to insects can now combat this problem with vertically pleated and roll-down screen systems that accommodate the glass panels. As a result of manufacturers' work with structural engineers, customers can also choose among curved or corner panel installations, as well as a new configuration that allows full-height wall panels to adjoin half-height window panels without any vertical support post (shown above in a kitchen). A flush-track roller system, developed for Weiland's lift-slide doors enables a “seamless transition from indoors to outdoors,” adds Weiland's general manager, Steve Donner.

“The product we offer is like a convertible car,” Nana says. “When it's a rainy day, it's like a regular car. But when it's a nice day, you can transform it and get that feeling of exhilaration, of the wind against your face. We're able to transform a shelter into a great feeling.” And that's an invitation few will turn down.