We’ve all experienced it. You’re walking through an apartment or office building and you hear voices from the unit above you. Or worse yet, you smell someone’s burnt popcorn permeating the hallway. With dozens of residents doing their own thing, how do you ensure your structure is sound, odor, and waterproof from the onset of its construction?
In 2018, multi-family construction was up 8% to $95.1 billion. With this upward trend, builders are being charged with enhancing occupants’ living environments. These projects provide unique challenges to maintain airtightness, while ensuring each unit does not lose heated or cooled air to the others, wasting dollars as well as impacting occupant comfort. Here are two proven methods for minimizing the building challenges associated with multi-family construction.
1 – Make firestopping pull double duty
Fortunately, creating an airtight, acoustically sound and odor-proof environment can be achieved relatively easily through effective firestopping. Careful product selection and quality installation enable the products used to do more than protect a building from the passage of fire and smoke: they also mitigate the spread of conditioned air, noises and smells.
During construction, wall penetrations should be sealed with an intumescent acrylic sealant which will expand to fill the cavities left after combustible materials burn and deteriorate. For joints, a firestopping silicone or urethane sealant ensures further protection for inhabitants.
By preventing these leaks, a contractor and building owner can minimize callbacks and enhance occupant comfort. Tenants will have the confidence that they won’t accidentally disturb their neighbors, plus, of course, the peace of mind that a potential fire will be contained and not spread across multiple units. .
2 – Use integrated wall designs
Treating each unit, apartment, or office space as a self-contained environment entails an integrated design of a wall system to meet the necessary internal and external wall requirements.
The recommended design includes a fluid-applied vapor-permeable air barrier membrane, flashing membranes and a multi-functional compressed tape as an all-in-one sealing system.
When tested at Tremco's Sustainable Building Solutions Test Facility, this holistic approach to wall system design surpassed even Passive House standards.
Tested in accordance with ASTM E283, air leakage was 0.023 cfm/ft² @ 75 Pa with an air exchange rate of 0.35/hour @ 50 Pa, well within even the stringent Passive House standard.
Sound transmission loss, the difference between the sound level in the source room and the receiving room, is measured at specific sound frequencies and used to arrive at the Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. The higher the STC rating calculated, the quieter it is in the receiving room.
ASTM E90 Standard Method for Laboratory Measurement of Airborne Sound Transmission testing was also done to determine the sound rating with and without open cell polyurethane foam compressed tape as the sealing system used in the ½" slots of the acoustical assembly.
The rating without the ½" slot sealed was 19 STC. The acoustical assembly with the open cell polyurethane foam compressed tape tested at 54 STC. Typical interior walls in homes have an STC of about 33.
Solving Challenges with Multi-Family Construction
Effective firestopping and integrated wall designs are two simple solutions to protect from these risks. This means that an energy-efficient, acoustically sound and comfortable indoor environment in an apartment or condominium may no longer be simply desirable, but an expectation in an increasingly competitive environment. When mindful construction and tested solutions come together, everyday building challenges are alleviated. It is up to your company to determine whether it will help set the standard or lag behind.