Title:
Method and Apparatus For Spanning Gutter Gaps in Wall Panels
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The wall panel system of the present invention includes a flexible sheet interlock to flexibly seal a joint defined by adjacent perimeter framing members and a capillary break to inhibit the entry of water into drainage or weep holes in gutters in the perimeter framing member.



Inventors:
Mitchell, Jed D. (Lakewood, CO, US)
Application Number:
11/610584
Publication Date:
05/03/2007
Filing Date:
12/14/2006
Assignee:
ELWARD SYSTEMS CORPORATION (Lakewood, CO, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B1/70; E04F13/08; E04F19/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
A, PHI DIEU TRAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Sheridan Ross PC (Denver, CO, US)
Claims:
1. A wall system including a plurality of wall panels attached to a structural member, comprising: adjacent perimeter framing members, each framing member having a horizontal extent that: (a) extends horizontally to opposite ends of the framing member, and (b) extents horizontally beyond the horizontal extent of the other perimeter framing member; wherein each of the perimeter framing members is attached horizontally to a different wall panel, the wall panels being located in a side-by-side relationship; and a flexible sheet interlock, that is substantially impervious to fluids, wherein the flexible sheet interlock extends a channel for fluids across a gap between ends of first and second fluid channel segments, each fluid channel segment operably connected to one of the adjacent perimeter framing members for providing a corresponding predetermined fluid path, wherein the channel channels fluids across the gap and along the horizontal extents of each of the adjacent perimeter framing members.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: an upper perimeter framing member attached to an upper wall panel, and at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members attached to a lower wall panel, the upper perimeter framing member and the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members engaging one another at perimeter edges of the upper and lower wall panels to define a recess relative to the upper and lower wall panels, the recess having an opening between a lower edge of the upper wall panel and an upper edge of the lower wall panel; wherein at least one of the upper perimeter framing member and the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members includes a plurality of drainage holes for the drainage of fluids located inside of the upper and lower wall panels, and at least one of the upper perimeter framing members and the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members includes a capillary break: (i) projecting into the recess and positioned between the upper and lower wall panels, (ii) positioned on the same side of the recess as the plurality of drainage holes, (iii) spaced from the plurality of drainage holes to inhibit fluids from entering the plurality of drainage holes, and (iv) dividing the opening from a circulating chamber of the recess, the drainage holes draining into the circulating chamber; wherein the recess has a lower surface contoured for permitting fluids in the circulating chamber to discharge into an exterior environment via the opening.

3. The wall system of claim 2, wherein a first space between a free end of the capillary break and an opposing wall of the recess has a first vertical cross-sectional area, and a second space between opposing walls of the recess at a point between the capillary break and the plurality of drainage holes has a second vertical cross-sectional area and the second vertical cross sectional area is at least about 125% of the first vertical cross sectional area for creating, in combination with a curved surface of the capillary break, a vortex between the opposing walls of the recess at a point between the capillary break and the plurality of drainage holes.

4. The wall system of claim 2, wherein a distance between the capillary break and a drainage hole is at least about 0.25 inches.

5. The wall system of claim 2, wherein the centers of the plurality of drainage holes lie along a common axis.

6. The wall system of claim 2, wherein a surface of the capillary break adjacent to the plurality of drainage holes is concave.

7. The wall system of claim 2, wherein the plurality of drainage holes are spaced at regular intervals along the at least one of the upper and lower perimeter framing members.

8. The wall system of claim 2, wherein the plurality of drainage holes are located on the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing member and the capillary break is located on the upper perimeter framing member.

9. The wall system of claim 2, wherein the plurality of drainage holes are located on a substantially horizontal surface.

10. The wall system of claim 2, wherein the plurality of drainage holes are located on one of the upper perimeter framing member and the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members, and the capillary break is located on the other of one of the upper perimeter framing member and the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members.

11. The wall system of claim 1, wherein the flexible sheet interlock is composed of silicone.

12. The wall system of claim 1, wherein the flexible sheet interlock is attached to each of the adjacent perimeter framing members by a sealant having a different composition than the flexible sheet interlock.

13. The wall system of claim 1, further comprising a substantially rigid insert and an upper perimeter framing member that is in an interlocking relationship with at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members, the substantially rigid insert being located between the upper perimeter framing member and the flexible sheet interlock to retain the flexible sheet interlock in position.

14. The wall system of claim 1, further comprising an upper perimeter framing member that is in an interlocking relationship with at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members, the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members including a lip projecting inwardly and being located adjacent to an end of the flexible sheet interlock to retain the flexible sheet interlock in position.

15. The wall system of claim 1, wherein the adjacent perimeter framing members are positioned in an end-to-end relationship with one another.

16. A wall including a plurality of wall panels attached to a structural member, comprising: adjacent perimeter framing members, each framing member having a horizontal extent that: (a) extends horizontally to opposite ends of the framing member, and (b) extents horizontally beyond the horizontal extent of the other perimeter framing member, each of the perimeter framing members being attached horizontally to a different wall panel, the wall panels being located in a side-by-side relationship; and a flexible sheet interlock, that is substantially impervious to fluids, wherein the flexible sheet interlock extends a channel for fluids across a gap between ends of first and second fluid channel segments, each fluid channel segment operably connected to one of the adjacent perimeter framing members for providing a corresponding predetermined fluid path, wherein the channel channels fluids across the gap and along the horizontal extents of each of the adjacent perimeter framing members, wherein at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members includes retaining means for retaining an end of the flexible sheet interlock in position when a third perimeter framing member is placed in an interlocking relationship with the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members.

17. The wall system of claim 1, further including a retaining means for retaining the flexible sheet interlock in a position for conducting the fluids between the first and second fluid channel segments, the retaining means including at least one of a substantially rigid insert and a lip projecting from the at least one of the adjacent perimeter framing members.

18. A method for erecting a wall from a plurality of wall panels, each respective wall panel being attached to a corresponding plurality of perimeter framing members, comprising: engaging a first wall panel attached to a first plurality of perimeter framing members to a structural member; engaging a second wall panel attached to a second plurality of perimeter framing members to a structural member, the second wall panel being located above the first wall panel; wherein for at least one perimeter framing member (S) of the second plurality of perimeter framing members, and at least one perimeter framing member (F) of the of the first plurality of perimeter framing members, the perimeter framing member S engages a bottom edge of the second wall panel, and the perimeter framing member F engages a top edge of the first wall panel; attaching a flexible sheet interlock to the perimeter framing member F; engaging a third wall panel attached to a third plurality of perimeter framing members to a structural member, the third wall panel being located beside the first wall panel and below the second wall panel, and at least one perimeter framing members (T) of the of the third plurality of perimeter framing members engaging the perimeter framing member F; wherein each of the perimeter framing members F and T have a horizontal extent that: (a) extends horizontally to opposite ends of the perimeter framing member, and (b) extents horizontally beyond the horizontal extent of the other of the perimeter framing members F and T; and attaching the flexible sheet interlock to the perimeter framing member T for providing a channel for fluids across a space between ends of first and second fluid channel segments, each fluid channel segment operably connected to one of the perimeter framing members F and T for providing a corresponding predetermined fluid path, wherein the channel channels fluids across the gap and along the horizontal extents of each of the perimeter framing members F and T.

19. A wall system for engaging a structural member, comprising: a plurality of wall panels; and adjacent perimeter framing members located in a side-by-side relationship, each of the adjacent perimeter framing members attached to a different wall panel, the wall panels being located in a side-by-side relationship; and a flexible sheet interlock, that is substantially impervious to terrestrial fluids, overlaps each of the adjacent perimeter framing members to inhibit the passage of terrestrial fluids between the adjacent perimeter framing members.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

The present application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/886,297, filed Jun. 20, 2001, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR ERECTING WALL PANELS”, which is a continuation application of 09/334,124, filed Jun. 15, 1999, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR ERECTING WALL PANELS” now U.S. Pat. No. 6,330,772, which is a continuation application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/989,748, filed Dec. 12, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,916,100, all the above identified references being fully incorporated herein by this reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed generally to apparatus and methods for erecting wall panels and specifically to perimeter framing members for attaching wall panels to structural members.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The exterior walls of many commercial and industrial buildings are formed by mounting a number of wall panels and attached perimeter extrusions on a grid framework of structural members attached to the building. The resulting grid of wall panels are aesthetically attractive and protect the building structure from fluids in the terrestrial environment.

In designing a wall panel mounting system, there are a number of objectives. First, the joints between the wall panels should be substantially sealed from terrestrial fluids. Penetration of terrestrial fluids behind the wall panels can cause warpage and/or dislocation of the wall panels, which can culminate in wall panel failure. Second, any sealing material used in the joints between the wall panels should be non-skinning and non-hardening. The sealing material is located in a confined space in the joint. To maintain the integrity of the seal between the wall panels when the panels expand and contract in response to thermal fluctuations and other building movements (e.g., seismically induced movements), the sealing material must be able to move with the wall panels without failure of the seal. If the sealing material hardens or “sets up”, the sealing material can break or shear, thereby destroying the weather seal. Third, the longevity of the sealing material should be at least as long as the useful life of the wall panels. Fourth, the sealing material should be capable of being pre-installed before erection of a wall panel beside a previously installed wall panel to provide for ease and simplicity of wall panel installation and low installation costs. Wall panel systems presently must be installed in a “stair step” fashion (i.e., a staggered or stepped method) because the sealing material must be installed only after both of the adjacent wall panels are mounted on the support members. Fifth, a drainage system or gutter should be employed to drain any fluids that are able to penetrate the seal in the joints. The gutter, which commonly is a “U”-shaped member in communication with a series of weep holes, must not overflow and thereby provide an uncontrolled entry for terrestrial fluids into the interior of the wall. During storms, winds can exert a positive pressure on the wall, thereby forcing terrestrial fluids to adhere to the surface of the wall (i.e., known as a capillary attraction). In other words, as the fluids follow the wall profile, the fluids can be drawn through the weep holes into gutter. The amount of terrestrial fluids drawn through the weep holes is directly proportional to the intensity of the storm pressure exerted on the wall exterior. If a sufficient amount of fluids enter the weep holes, the gutter can overflow, leaking fluids into the wall interior. Such leakage can cause severe damage or even panel failure.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

These and other design considerations are addressed by the wall panel attachment system of the present invention. In a first aspect of the present invention, the wall panel attachment system includes an upper perimeter framing member attached to an upper wall panel and a lower perimeter framing member attached to a lower wall panel. The upper and lower perimeter framing members engage one another at perimeter edges of the upper and lower, typically vertically aligned, wall panels to define a recess relative to the upper and lower wall panels. At least one of the upper and lower perimeter framing members includes a plurality of drainage (or weep) holes for the drainage of terrestrial fluids located inside of the upper and lower perimeter framing members. At least one of the upper and lower perimeter framing members further includes a capillary break or blocking means (e.g., an elongated ridge running the length of the perimeter framing members) that (a) projects into the recess, (b) is positioned between the exterior of the upper and lower wall panels on the one hand and the plurality of drainage holes on the other, (c) is positioned on the same side of the recess as the plurality of drainage holes, and (d) is spaced from the plurality of drainage holes. The portion of the recess located interiorly of the capillary break is referred to as the circulating chamber. The capillary break inhibits terrestrial fluids, such as rainwater, from entering the plurality of drainage holes and substantially seals the joint between the upper and lower perimeter framing members from penetration by fluids.

While not wishing to be bound by any theory, the capillary break induces vortexing of any air stream containing droplets, thereby removing the droplets from the air stream upstream of the weep holes. Vortexing is induced by a decrease in the cross-sectional area of airflow (causing an increase in air stream velocity) as the air stream flows towards and past the capillary break followed by a sudden increase in the cross-sectional area of flow downstream of the capillary break (causing a decrease in air stream velocity). Behind and adjacent to the capillary break, the sudden decrease in air stream velocity causes entrained droplets to deposit on the surface of the recess. To induce vortexing, the capillary break can have a concave or curved surface on its rear surface (adjacent to the circulating chamber). The rear surface of the capillary break is adjacent to the weep holes.

To inhibit entry of the droplets into the weep holes adjacent to the capillary break, the weep holes must be located at a sufficient distance from the capillary break and a sufficient distance above the free end of the capillary break to remove the weep holes from the vortex. Preferably, the capillary break and weep holes are both positioned on the same side of a horizontal line intersecting the free end of the capillary break. Typically, the distance between the rear surface of the capillary break and the adjacent drainage holes (which are typically aligned relative to a common axis) is at least about 0.25 inches. Commonly, the distance of the weep holes above the free end of the capillary break is at least about 125% of the distance from the free end of the capillary break to the opposing surface of the recess.

The drainage holes and capillary break can be located on the same perimeter framing member or on different perimeter framing members.

To form a seal between the perimeter framing members of adjacent, horizontally aligned wall panels, a second aspect of the present invention employs a flexible sheet interlock, that is substantially impervious to the passage of terrestrial fluids, to overlap both of the perimeter framing members to inhibit the passage of terrestrial fluids in the space between the perimeter framing members.

The flexible sheet interlock is preferably composed of a sealing non-skinning and non-hardening material that has a useful life at least equal to that of the wall panels. In this manner, the integrity of the seal between the wall panels is maintained over the useful life of the panels. The most preferred sealing material is silicone or urethane. The flexible sheet interlock, being non-skinning and non-hardening, can move freely, in response to thermally induced movement of the wall panels, without failure of the seal.

The flexible sheet interlock can be pre-installed before erection of an adjacent wall panel to provide for ease and simplicity of wall panel installation and low installation costs. The flexible sheet interlock can be installed on the wall panel and folded back on itself during installation of the adjacent wall panel. After the adjacent wall panel is installed, the interlock can simply be unfolded to cover the joint between the adjoining wall panels.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 depicts a number of adjoining wall panels attached by a first embodiment of the wall panel mounting system according to a first aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 1A is an exploded view of interconnected upper and lower perimeter framing members attached to panels 54a and 54c of the first embodiment viewed from in front of the wall panels, with a portion of the lower perimeter framing member 58c being cutaway to reveal the drainage holes 78 (in the lower perimeter framing member 58c, as is also illustrated in FIG. 2), and the capillary break 74 (in the upper perimeter framing member 66a, as is also illustrated in FIG. 2);

FIG. 1B is an exploded view of the lower perimeter framing member 58b of the first embodiment;

FIG. 1C is an exploded view of interconnected upper and lower perimeter framing members 66b and 58d of the first embodiment;

FIG. 1D is an exploded view of the upper perimeter framing member 58d of the first embodiment;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the wall panel mounting system of the first embodiment taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a sectional view of the wall panel mounting system of the first embodiment taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1 depicting the impact of the capillary break on airflow during a storm;

FIG. 4 is a second embodiment of a wall panel mounting system according to the first aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a third embodiment of a wall panel mounting system according to the first aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 6A depicts a number of adjoining wall panels sealed by a fourth embodiment of a wall panel mounting system according to the second aspect of the present invention briefly described in the Summary of the Invention section hereinabove;

FIG. 6B is an exploded view of interconnected lower perimeter framing members, e.g., 66a and 66b, of adjoining wall panels 54c and 54d of FIG. 6A viewed from the front of the wall panels, with the upper perimeter framing member removed to reveal the flexible sheet interlock 250;

FIG. 7 depicts the behavior of the flexible sheet interlock 250 in response to thermal contractions in the wall panels;

FIG. 8 depicts a first method for installing the flexible sheet interlock to seal a joint between adjacent perimeter framing members;

FIG. 9 is a sectional view along line 9-9 of FIG. 8;

FIGS. 10-11 depict a second method for installing the flexible sheet interlock which uses a rigid insert to protect the edges of the flexible sheet interlock;

FIGS. 12-13 depict a third method for installing the flexible sheet interlock which uses a shelf or lip on the perimeter framing member to protect the edges of the flexible sheet interlock;

FIG. 14 depicts the exposed edges of the flexible sheet interlock being folded back onto itself during installation of an adjacent wall panel;

FIG. 15 depicts a preferred sequence for installing wall panels using the flexible sheet interlock, wherein instances of the flexible sheet interlock are identified by the label “FSI”;

FIGS. 16-22 depict a fourth embodiment of a wall panel mounting system according to a third aspect of the present invention; and

FIGS. 23-28 depict a fifth embodiment of a wall panel mounting system according to the third aspect of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The first aspect of the present invention is directed to retarding the passage of terrestrial fluids through the joint between adjoining upper and lower wall panels. FIG. 1 depicts four adjacent wall panel mounting assemblies 50a-d and the attached vertically oriented wall panels 54a-d according to the first aspect of the present invention. Each wall panel mounting assembly 50a-d includes a number of perimeter framing members 58a-d, 62a-d, 66a-d and 70a-d engaging each edge of the wall panels 54a-d. Lower perimeter framing members 58 engage upper perimeter framing members 66, and perimeter framing members 62 engage perimeter framing members 70. As can be seen from FIGS. 1A and 1C, the upper perimeter framing members 66 (e.g., 66a and 66b) are configured to interlock in a nested relationship with corresponding lower perimeter framing members 58 (e.g., 58c and 58d). Referring to FIG. 1A, at least one of the upper and lower perimeter framing members has a capillary break 74 (FIGS. 1C and 2 as well), and a plurality of drainage holes 78a-c in communication with a gutter 83 (FIG. 2 as well), defined by the lower perimeter framing member in the present embodiment.

The wall panels 54 can be composed of a variety of materials, including wood, plastics, metal, ceramics, masonry, and composites thereof. A preferred composite wall panel 54 is metal- or plastic-faced with a wood, metal, or plastic core. A more preferred wall panel 54 is a composite of metal and plastics sold under the trademark “ALUCOBOND ”.

Referring to FIGS. 1C, 2 and 3, the upper and lower perimeter framing members 66 and 58 define a recess 82. The capillary break 74 extends downwardly from the upper perimeter framing member 66 to divide the recess 82 into a circulating chamber 86 and an inlet 90. The capillary break 74 is located nearer the wall panel 54 than the drainage holes 78 to block or impede the flow of droplets 94 (FIG. 3) entrained in the air stream 98 into the drainage holes 78.

FIG. 3 depicts the operation of the capillary break 74 and circulating chamber 86 during a storm. The air stream or wind 98 forces droplets of water 94 against the wall panels 54 (e.g., 54b and 54d). A film 102 of water forms on, e.g., the exterior surfaces of the wall. The wind pressure forces entrained droplets of water 94 and the film 102 into the inlet 90 between the wall panels 54b and 54d. The capillary break 74, which runs continuously along the length of each upper perimeter framing member 66 (e.g., 66b in FIG. 3), decreases the cross-sectional area of air flow and therefore increases the velocity of the droplets 94. As the entrained droplets 94 enter the circulating chamber 86, the cross-sectional area of flow increases and therefore the velocity of the droplets 94 decreases forming a vortex 106. As a result, the droplets 94 have insufficient velocity to remain entrained in the air and the droplets collect in the film 102 on the lower surface 110 of the recess 82.

The degree of vortexing of the air stream depends, of course, on the increase in the cross-sectional area of flow as the air stream flows past the capillary break 74 and into the circulating chamber 86. If one were to define the space between the free end 124 (FIG. 2) of the capillary break and the opposing wall (i.e., lower surface 110) of the recess 82 as having a first vertical cross-sectional area, and the space between the vertically spaced apart opposing walls of the circulating chamber 86 (i.e., the distance “Hv”, FIG. 2) as having a second vertical cross-sectional area, the second vertical cross sectional area is preferably at least about 125% of the first vertical cross sectional area and more preferably at least about 150% of the first vertical cross sectional area.

The rear surface 120 (FIGS. 2 and 3) of the capillary break 74 has a concave or curved shape to facilitate the formation of the vortex 106.

The relative dimensions of the capillary break 74 are important to its performance. Preferably, the height “HC” (FIG. 2) of the capillary break 74 is at least about 100%, and more preferably ranges from about 125% to about 200%, of the distance “DC” (FIG. 2) between the free end 124 of the capillary break 74 and the opposing surface 110 of the recess 82.

The locations of the drainage holes 78 relative to the capillary break 74 is another important factor to performance. The drainage holes 78 are preferably located on the same side of the capillary break 74 as the circulating chamber 86 of the recess 82 (i.e., drainage holes 78 are in the upper portion of the circulating chamber 86 as shown in FIG. 2) such that the wind does not have a straight line path from the inlet 90 to a drainage hole 78. For a substantially horizontally oriented drainage hole 78, the distance “DH” (FIG. 2) from the rear surface 120 of the capillary break 74 to the edge 128 (FIG. 2) of the drainage hole 78 must be sufficient to place the drainage hole outside of the vortex and more preferably is at least about 0.25 inches.

FIG. 4 depicts a second embodiment of a wall panel mounting assembly according to the first aspect of the present invention (this first aspect briefly described in the Summary of the Invention section hereinabove). In this second embodiment, drainage holes 78 are located on a substantially vertical surface 154 of an embodiment of the lower perimeter framing member 58. Because a vertically oriented drainage hole is more susceptible to the entry of fluids than the horizontally oriented drainage hole of FIG. 2, the preferred minimum distance “DH” from the rear surface 120 of the capillary break 74 for this second embodiment is greater than the preferred minimum distance “DH” from the rear surface for the first embodiment (e.g., FIG. 2). More preferably, the drainage hole 78 is located at least about 0.75 inches from the rear surface 120 of the capillary break 74. The center of the drainage hole 78 is located above the free end 124 (FIG. 4) of the capillary break 74 and more preferably the entire drainage hole 78 is located above the free end 124 of the capillary break 74.

FIG. 5 depicts a third embodiment of a wall panel mounting assembly according to the first aspect of the present invention. In this third embodiment, drainage holes 78 are located above the free end 124 of the capillary break 74 with an inclined surface 212 extending from the drainage holes 78 to a point below the capillary break 74. The inclined surface 212 facilitates removal of fluids from the recess 82 and thereby inhibits build-up of fluids in a corner of the recess 82 (i.e., a corner of the chamber 86).

FIGS. 6A and 6B depict a fourth embodiment of a wall panel attachment system according to the second aspect of the present invention (this second aspect briefly described in the Summary of the Invention section hereinabove). The system uses a flexible sheet interlock 250 (FIG. 6B) to seal inline adjacent perimeter framing members (e.g., perimeter framing members 258a and 258b, which may correspond to one of the pairs of lower perimeter framing members 58a,b or 58c,d of FIGS. 1, 1A and 1C). At the joint or gap 284 between the perimeter framing members 258a and 258b of adjacent wall panels 54a,b (or 54c,d), a flexible sheet interlock 250 inhibits fluid migration along the joint defined by the adjacent ends 254a,b of the adjacent gutter segments (e.g., 83a,b in FIG. 6B) of the perimeter framing members 258a and 258b. The flexible sheet interlock 250 realizes this result by retaining fluids in the adjacent gutter segments 83a,b. Accordingly, the interface (e.g., 260, FIG. 7) between the flexible sheet interlock 250 and the gutter interior surfaces of the gutter walls 268a,b,c is substantially impervious to fluid migration. As can be seen from FIG. 6B, the flexible sheet interlock 250 has sufficient flexibility to conform to the “U”-shaped contour of the gutter segments 83a and 83b.

Referring to FIGS. 6A, 6B, and FIG. 7, surface 251 of the flexible sheet interlock 250 between the adjacent ends 254a,b is shown, and in particular, in FIG. 7, this surface is shown in both an extended and bowed configuration. The interface 260 (FIG. 7) can include an adhesive 264 between the flexible sheet interlock 250 and each of the three gutter walls 268a,b,c to retain the interlock 250 in position. Although the flexible sheet interlock 250 itself may possess adhesive properties, an adhesive, preferably having sealing properties, has been found to assist the formation and maintenance of an integral seal between the interlock 250 and the gutter interior surfaces of the gutter walls 268a,b,c. The most preferred adhesive is a high performance compressed joint sealant that can “set up” or harden and bond to the gutter walls 268a,b,c and the interlock. Examples of such sealants include silicone, urethane, and epoxy. Because the interlock 250 itself absorbs all of the thermal movement of the wall panels, there is no requirement for the adhesive 264 to stay resilient and move. The end result is a more economical system for sealing the gap 284 between the gutter segments 83a,b of adjacent perimeter framing members (e.g., 258a, b) that has a useful life equal to that of the exterior wall panel system.

As can be seen from FIG. 7, when the perimeter framing members (e.g., 258a, b) are expanded due to thermal or building movements (e.g., the perimeter framing member positions denoted by arrows 274), the portion 280 of the interlock 250 in the gap 284 between the adjoining perimeter framing members deforms and thereby absorbs the movement without a failure of the seal provided by the adhesive 264. When the perimeter framing members (e.g., 258a, b) are in a relaxed state (e.g., the perimeter framing member positions denoted by arrows 288), the interlock 250 returns to its normal (i.e., extended) position.

Referring to FIGS. 8 and 9, embodiments of lower perimeter framing members 58e and 58f are shown, and additionally these figures show that the dimensions of the flexible interlock 250 are sufficient to prevent fluids from spilling over the sides of the interlock 250 before the fluid depth in the gutter 83 (provided by gutter segments 83a,b) reaches the depth of the gutter. After installation of the interlock 250 in the gutter 83, the two heights labeled “HF1” and “HF2” (FIG. 9) of the respective sides 272a,c of the interlock 250 are substantially the same as the heights “HI1” and “HI2” of the corresponding (i.e., adjacent) side walls 268a,c of the gutter.

FIGS. 8-9 also depict a method for installing the interlock 250 across the adjacent ends of the gutter segments 83a,b. The interlock 250 is pressed down in the gutter segments 83a,b until the interlock 250 substantially conforms to the interior shape of the gutter 83 as depicted in FIG. 9.

In FIGS. 10-13, alternative methods are depicted for installing the flexible sheet interlock 250 in the gutters 83 (e.g., gutter segments 83a,b in FIG. 6B). In a second method shown in FIGS. 10-11, a substantially rigid insert 292 can be employed to protect the exposed edge 293 of the interlock 250 during engagement of an upper perimeter framing member, and a lower perimeter framing member. In particular, the rigid insert 292 is shown in the context of another embodiment of the upper and lower perimeter framing members identified respectively in these figures by the labels 266 and 258. Note that the upper perimeter framing member 266 adjoins an upper wall panel 54k, and the lower perimeter framing member 258 adjoins a lower wall panel 54m. As will be appreciated, in the absence of the insert 292, the inner surface 296 of the upper perimeter framing member 266 can “roll up” the interlock 250 due to frictional forces during engagement of the upper and lower perimeter framing members 266 and 258 with one another. The “L”-shaped insert 292, which can be any substantially rigid material such as metal or plastic, is received between the upper and lower perimeter framing members (266, 258, respectively), and inhibits the rolling up of the interlock 250 when the perimeter framing members are placed into an interlocking relationship. The insert 292 and interlock 250 are positioned in a nested interlocking relationship as shown in FIG. 10. To operate effectively, the height “HA” of the engaging surface 297 (FIG. 11) of the insert 292 has substantially the same length as the height “HI” (FIG. 10) of the corresponding (i.e., adjacent) gutter wall 268a. As will be appreciated, the insert 292 is not required to be an “L”-shape but can be any other shape that matches the inner contour of the gutter 83 such as a “U”-shape.

Note that FIGS. 10-11 also show other features for the wall panel attachment system disclosed herein. In particular, a pocket 289 is shown in each of: the lower perimeter framing member 266, and (in the dashed version of) the upper perimeter framing member 258. Each pocket 289 is a recess into which a corresponding portion of a panel 54 (e.g., 54k or 54m) can be received (e.g., a portion of the panel that is: (a) between the panel peripheral surfaces 55 and 57, and (b) extending to the panel's peripheral edge 56, wherein the panel surfaces 55 and 57 face substantially away from one another). Each pocket 289 is bounded by (and in part defined by) a pair of first and second opposing surfaces, 286 and 287 respectively. In addition to a panel's peripheral surfaces and edges, an attachment member 290 is also provided in each pocket 289. For each of the lower and upper perimeter framing members 258 and 266, one of the attachment members 290 is operably provided in the perimeter framing member's corresponding pocket 289 for securing a corresponding one of the panels 54m and 54k within the pocket (for example, wherein the peripheral surfaces 55 and 57, and, the edge 56 of the panel are received within the pocket 289). More precisely, for each of the attachment members 290:

(i) there is a corresponding semi-cylindrical grove or notch 285 within a surface of the corresponding adjacent panel 54 for mating with (or more generally, engaging) a corresponding surface portion 290a (also referred to as a “bearing surface”) of the attachment member 290, and

(ii) there is a corresponding semi-cylindrical groove (or more generally, “grooved member”) 291 in each of the first of the opposing surfaces 286 for mating with (or generally, engaging) a corresponding surface portion 290b (also referred to as a “bearing surface”) of the attachment member 290.

In a third method for installing the flexible sheet interlock 250 shown in FIGS. 12-13, the inner surface 299 of the gutter segment 83a includes a lip 302 extending inwardly to protect the edges of the interlock 250 during installation of the upper perimeter framing member 266. The width of the lip “HL” (FIG. 12) is preferably at least the same as the thickness “TI” (FIG. 13) of the interlock 250.

FIGS. 14 and 15 depict a preferred method for installing wall panel systems using the flexible sheet interlock 250 (identified by the label “FSI” in FIG. 15). The numbers on the wall panels (e.g., 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. in FIG. 15) denote the order in which the wall panels are attached to the wall support members. Although the conventional “stair step” method can also be employed with the interlock 250, the method of FIG. 15 is simpler, less expensive, and has more flexibility in installation.

The installation method will now be explained with reference to FIGS. 8-9 and 14-15. In a first step, the wall panel system 500a (FIG. 15) is attached to the wall support members. In a second step, the adhesive 264 (FIG. 7) is applied to either or both of a flexible sheet interlock 250 and adjoining interior gutter surfaces of walls 268a-c (FIG. 14), and the flexible sheet interlock 250 is engaged with each end 254a,b (FIGS. 6B and 14) of the wall panel system 500a. In a third step, the wall panel systems 500b,c are attached to the wall support members, wherein the corresponding flexible sheet interlocks 250 are attached to the ends of each system's gutter segment (e.g., 83a or 83b) as described above. In a fourth step, the protruding end 504 of the interlock 250 is folded away from the edge of the wall panel system 500a as shown in FIG. 14, and the wall panel system 500d is attached to the wall support members. A flexible sheet interlock 250 is then attached to the gutter segment (e.g., 83a or 83b) at the end of the wall panel system 500d as described hereinabove. The above steps are repeated to install the remaining wall panel systems 500e-500l.

Referring to FIGS. 16-21, a fourth embodiment according to a third aspect of the present invention is illustrated. The third aspect of the invention is used to attach embodiments of the wall panels to an alternative embodiment of the perimeter framing members denoted by the label 304 to distinguish it from the perimeter framing members described hereinabove. The wall panel assembly 300 (e.g., FIG. 19) includes a perimeter framing member 304, a wedge-shaped member 306, and an attachment member 308 (which secures a wall panel within a pocket 289, but differently from attachment member 290, FIG. 10, and which is preferably a rigid or semi-rigid material such as metal). The attachment member 308 has an L-shaped member 312 that engages a grooved member 316 in the perimeter framing member 304. The attachment member 308 has a cylindrically-shaped bearing surface 320 that is received in a groove 324 in a wall panel 54 (also identified as a panel member 54 herein) substantially along the length of the side of the panel member 54. One end 336 of the wedge-shaped member 306 engages a step 332 in the perimeter framing member 304 and the other end 340 of the wedge-shaped member 306 engages a step 344 in the attachment member 308. The wedge-shaped member 306 is suitably sized to cause the bearing surface 320 of the attachment member 308 to be forced against the groove 324 in the panel member, thereby holding the panel member in position. The bearing surface 320 can have any number of desired shapes, including v-shaped, star-shaped, and the like.

The steps to assemble the panel member assembly 300 are illustrated in FIGS. 16-21. In the first step illustrated by FIG. 16, the panel member 54 is positioned in the pocket 289 of the perimeter framing member 304. In FIG. 17, the L-shaped member 312 (which is part of the attachment member 308) is engaged with the grooved member 316 (FIG. 18) of the perimeter framing member 304, and the bearing surface 320 is engaged with the groove in the panel member 54. In FIGS. 18-19, the lower end 340 of the wedge-shaped member 306 is engaged with the step 344 of the attachment member, and the upper end 336 of the wedge-shaped member 306 is then forcibly engaged with the step 332 in the perimeter framing member 304. Note that as shown in FIG. 18, for an axis 351:

(i) having a first position 352a that is offset from the surface 353 of the panel member 54 on a side also having the surface 354 of the pocket 289, and

(ii) having a second position 352b that is offset from the surface 353 on a side not having the surface 354,

the attachment member 308 includes a portion that traverses the extent or separation between the first position and the second position. In the present embodiment, one such portion is the part of the attachment member 308 that extends from the bearing surface 320 to the dashed line 355. In FIGS. 20-21, the edge of the panel member 54 is bent at a 90 degree angle about a predetermined line in the panel member. Interlocking flanges of adjacent perimeter framing members can then be engaged to form the building surface.

FIGS. 22-28 depict a fifth embodiment according to the third aspect of the present invention. The wedge-shaped member 306 of the previous embodiment of FIGS. 16-21) is replaced with a screw 404 (FIGS. 23-28, alternatively, screw 404a or 404b in FIG. 22) or other fastener to hold the perimeter framing member 304 (FIGS. 23-28, alternatively, perimeter framing member 304a or 304b in FIG. 22), and the attachment member 308 (FIGS. 23-28, alternatively, attachment member 308a or 308b in FIG. 22) in position on the panel member 54 (FIGS. 23-28, alternatively, panel 54n or 54p in FIG. 22). The fastener passes through the attachment member and perimeter framing member.

The steps to assemble each panel member assembly 300 of FIG. 22 are illustrated by FIGS. 23-28, with FIG. 23 illustrating the first step, FIG. 24 the second step, FIGS. 25-26 the third step, and FIGS. 27-28 the last step. Additionally, note that FIG. 22 depicts a somewhat different embodiment from that of FIGS. 23-28; e.g., FIG. 22 shows differently configured perimeter framing members 304a,b and attachment members 308a,b from the corresponding components in FIGS. 23-28.

The perimeter framing members 304a,b (FIG. 22) are in the interlocked position for mounting the panels on a support surface. Note that FIG. 22 shows the parallel surfaces 412a and 412b of the peripheral edges of the panels 54n and 54p, wherein each of the surfaces 412a and 412b engage an interior surface of a corresponding pocket 289 of one of the perimeter framing members 304a and 304b (such perimeter framing members also referred to as panel receiving members herein). Moreover, the panels 54n and 54p are spaced apart from one another by a channel or gap 424, wherein the channel or gap is bounded by facing sides, each side being provided by a different one of first and second perimeter framing members 304a and 304b, and each side being an exterior surface of one of the pockets 289 receiving a corresponding peripheral edge of one of the panels 54n and 54p.

While various embodiments have been described in detail, it is apparent that modifications and adaptations of those embodiments will occur to those skilled in the art. However, it is to be expressly understood that such modifications and adaptations are within the scope of these inventions, as set forth in the following claims.