Building Practices that Make Sense

Barks from a dog next door, the trickling sound of your neighbor’s plumbing – in apartment communities across America, these are the noises you can’t seem to escape. However, with the right building practices and materials, multi-unit living doesn’t have to be so loud.




Understanding that peace and privacy are important to the quality of living in any residential building, Rockford works with our multi-unit clients to pre-emptively address noise control from the project onset. This begins in preconstruction when we identify requirements for Sound Transmission Class (STC), Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC), and Impact Isolation Class (IIC) ratings. During this phase, we review the details of design and suggest appropriate modifications to methods or materials. Like most building considerations, making changes early in the design phase is easier than resolving issues during occupancy when solutions can be both difficult and expensive. As we review the design with acoustics in mind, we look for specific items including:

– Placement of electrical boxes and outlets
– Oversized ductwork with limited 90-degree turns
– Isolation systems on mechanical units, including tuned mass dampers
– Construction methods and make-up of common area walls, party walls, and overall floor-to-floor performance
– Air cavities, insulation, resilient channel or z-furring with resilient sound resistant chips, and wall mass
– Sound attenuating and absorbing materials including acoustical ceiling deck or tiles, and wall treatments

The design details are then carefully carried into construction. We know that implementing details of the design correctly in the field have a huge impact on attaining a project’s required ratings and desired acoustical performance. Even if that “acoustical performance” is say, the absence of sound in your apartment.

A video by Charlotte Pipe proves that materials really do make a difference in attenuating noises. In recent Rockford projects – The Morton, Poinciana Gardens, and Klingman Lofts – the materials the team selected had strong sound isolation characteristics. It is our practice to conduct multiple inspections of the installation to ensure proper performance of these isolating products. However, materials alone cannot do the whole job. Combined with appropriate materials, proper installation can significantly reduce noise within and around each apartment. During the construction of acoustically superior spaces, it is important to ensure:

– Correct installation of doors, seals, outlets, and thresholds
– Through-wall isolation assemblies of mechanical systems
– Isolated installation of exterior windows from adjacent walls
– Proper installation of resilient channel

This work is not unique to multi-unit facilities. Musical performance spaces require exacting sound and vibration isolation and athletic venues pose surprisingly complex acoustic challenges. In healthcare facilities, high noise levels can negatively impact patient health and well-being, impede effective staff communication, and cause implications for patient safety through an increase in staff errors. Without proper acoustical considerations, private conversations between patients and practitioners can also be overheard, breaching confidentiality.

Simply put: it is important to diminish shared noise in occupied facilities, and there are ways to do it. Regardless of project type, resolving issues related to interior acoustics requires early planning, appropriate materials, and meticulous installation.