Good acoustic design is half the battle in multifamily dwellings

Key acoustic issues
While the concepts and strategies for meeting acoustic performance targets are well established, their implementation can sometimes be challenging. It requires builders and architects to adopt new construction methods at additional costs. Success on a project requires diligent co-ordination between the design team and the builder to ensure correct implementation. An important first step is conducting early reviews of design drawings to identify specific acoustic concerns and concepts for mitigation.

Sound isolation
Careful planning to promote compatible space usages greatly reduces the need for acoustical controls. Fitness rooms and amenity spaces directly adjacent to bedrooms can require cavity walls, floating floors, or acoustic ceilings, depending on the base building construction. This can complicate co-ordination with building services, reduce ceiling clearance, decrease floor space, and add significant cost in materials and labour.

Construction details for partition separations are often omitted from project specifications or are only provided for generic, simple conditions. Procedures for some common details include acoustical caulking application, treatment of any service penetrations, marriage of varying wall types, and sound flanking control information where demising walls terminate at mullions. A wall type easily exceeding required design STC ratings can have significantly reduced field performance even when it has been installed to follow design documents perfectly, if these items are overlooked.

Details regarding material types, acceptable products and vendors, and applicable criteria (e.g. background noise) should be integrated into project specifications early so that they are not missed. Examples include vibration isolation product types, any specialty acoustic drywall, acoustic ceiling tile types, and performance ratings.

Building services
Most isolation products provided by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) generally do not account for floor flexibility, wall constructions, or adjacent space sensitivities. An early review of these elements ensures costs of controls are integrated into the project.

Horizontal sanitary runs in the ceiling of an occupied area can result in easily apparent flow noise from occupants in other suites (e.g. toilet flushes). Layouts of pipes should be reviewed early to establish where alternate controls such as cast-iron pipe, lagging, or bulkhead enclosures might be necessary.

Rigid mounting of the garage-door motors and rails to the building itself can generate structure-borne noise to structurally coupled suites above.

Noise coming from rooftop equipment, parking garage exhaust fans, and nearby road and rail lines is often addressed during site plan approvals with general statements on noise control to satisfy regulatory requirements. During detailed design, these issues should not be overlooked, and noise controls must be integrated to address them.

Amenity spaces and retail
A large draw to condo buildings is the numerous amenities often available to the tenant. However, living close to fitness rooms and party spaces increases risk of noise disruption and of complaints. Golf simulators, squash courts, and movie rooms tend to have specific acoustic design challenges.

Acoustic controls to address boundaries shared with retail spaces largely depend on the retail tenant. Boundaries between residences and offices or typical nine-to-five businesses have much different requirements than boundaries between residences and restaurants or gyms. A high-STC base boundary construction, along with appropriate verbiage in tenant covenants related to additional acoustic controls, can be an effective approach.

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