Good acoustic design is half the battle in multifamily dwellings

Site implementation reviews
Achieving desired levels of acoustic performance requires acoustical details and controls to be correctly implemented during construction. Field reviews are the most effective way to address possible issues before they spread through the building. Reviews are scheduled following the completion of key elements (e.g. when drywall boarding occurs at the lowest floors of a high-rise) or at the earliest possible stage to ensure quality controls are carried to completion.

Typical issues identified in construction reviews  mainly include:

  • incorrect application/lack of acoustical caulking (Figure 1);
  • sanitary runs in contact with bulkheads and ceilings (Figure 2);
  • debris in gap between garbage chutes and slab (Figure 3);
  • tie holes in concrete construction not filled
    (Figure 4);
  • acoustical ceilings rigidly connected to perimeter walls (Figure 5); and
  • bridged acoustic controls (e.g. resilient channels/vibration isolation) (Figure 6).

Performance testing
Performance testing is an effective way to verify that construction methods and installation details provide the required acoustic ratings. The benefits of this testing are twofold:

  1. It provides a confirmation building code/B19 minimum requirements and the objectives of the design are satisfied.
  2. Results are used to identify acoustic deficiencies, such as flaws in construction or missing elements (e.g. an incorrect number of drywall or insulation layers), and the required approaches to mitigation.

Performance testing is a requirement for Tarion B19 approvals in Ontario and is becoming rapidly adopted for non-condominium construction projects as a method to quantify performance, ensure contract acoustic requirements are met, and safeguard this building in the event of future acoustic issues
or complaints.

When performance testing indicates an assembly has not met the minimum field requirements, mitigation is needed prior to sign-off from the acoustical engineer. While it is often simple to identify the root cause of the acoustical deficiency, it can be challenging to develop a mitigation solution that is cost-effective, simple to implement, and—most importantly—provides the required level of acoustical performance.

Acoustic proof-of-performance testing is available in all major cities across Canada and can be tailored to suit the builder’s requirements.

A successful acoustic design always requires strong co-ordination between design team and contractor. Three proven success steps are:

  • early reviews of design documents to establish criteria and controls;
  • site reviews to assure quality and consistency in implementation; and
  • performance testing to verify means and methods satisfy the acoustical objectives of the project.

The acoustical consultant manages this process, providing technical input, experiential guidance, and practical solutions to unique field conditions. As many of the controls span multiple design and construction disciplines, achieving overall consensus on both design objectives and approaches to field implementation is paramount to success.

Nick Walters, M.A.Sc., P.Eng., is the condominium construction lead at Novus Environmental, based in Guelph, Ont. Responsible for project management, site reviews and inspections, and final building performance testing, he is an acoustics and vibration engineer with a focus on applied building design and construction. Walters works closely with architects and developers throughout Canada and the United States to integrate acoustical design, noise control, and vibration mitigation concepts with practical considerations for construction and remediation. He received his masters of applied science in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph. Walters can be reached at


Brad Pridham, PhD, P.Eng., is a principal with Novus Environmental. He is actively involved in acoustic and vibration design of buildings for healthcare, labs, institutional, education, science and technology, industrial, high-rise residential, and land-use approvals. A member of the Society for Experimental Mechanics, Pridham has applied his expertise to the design of long-span highway and pedestrian bridges, as well as industrial machine installations involving vibration control. He has also assisted building owners with wind-induced noise (aeroacoustic) problems associated with architectural façade elements. Pridham can be reached at

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