Contractors and architects creating HOME, Manchester’s latest cultural venue, overcame acoustic and construction challenges using Soundshield Plus high performance plasterboard and technical support from Knauf.

Among the venue’s facilities are a 500-seat theatre; a 150-seat flexible studio space; five cinema screens; a 500m2, a 4m high gallery space; digital production and broadcast facilities and a cafe bar and restaurant.

Acoustically, the main challenges were to isolate the theatre and the five cinemas from one another and to protect the whole venue from the railway that ran just six metres from the building – and just eight metres from the stage in the theatre.

Designed by award-winning Dutch architect Meccanoo, HOME was built by Wates Construction with the detailing produced by Space Group, which worked closely with Knauf’s technical support team and the drylining subcontractors, Stockport-based Sound Interiors, before work started on site.

“Blockwork was never an option really,” says Ray Jacques, project manager for Wates. “It would have taken far too long and would have needed scaffolding. Using plasterboards meant we could install the walls using scissor lifts, which were far quicker and easier.”

With the aid of Knauf’s technical support team the acoustic and fire requirements were slimmed down to eight different wall designs with one type of board being used in the main, Soundshield Plus, reinforced with Knauf Fire Panel where greater fire resistance was required.

“Close liaison with Knauf ensured that the installation process went smoothly with regular site inspections from the Knauf team,” commented Howard Winter from Sound Interiors. “This was a tight inner city site so it was important for us that the lead times for Knauf products were always accurate and timely because without on site planning and production capability this could have become a major issue given the delivery constraints.”

To achieve the acoustic performance needed, the theatre is effectively a box within a box, a steel frame standing on acoustic rubber pads that is completely isolated from the external concrete so there is no sound bridging. The frame is lined with three staggered layers of 15mm Soundshield Plus that incorporates 100mm Knauf Earth Wool Acoustic Partition Roll and so achieves an acoustic performance of 76dB Rw
- enough to keep out the noise of the railway just metres away.

The five cinemas within the complex are on the first floor and, to stop sound leaking from one to another, are separated by twin-framed partitions that provide 63dB Rw of sound insulation. Each side of the partition is constructed from two 15mm panels of Soundshield Plus on either side of 25mm Knauf Earth Wool Acoustic Partition Roll.

Available in 12.5mm and 15mm thicknesses, Knauf Soundshield Plus is an upgrade to the popular Soundshield range and offers exceptional acoustic performance as well as enhanced fire and impact performance. Two layers of 12.5mm Knauf Soundshield Plus, either side of a 70mm Performer partition, can achieve an impressive 54dB(Rw) sound performance as well as 120 minutes’ fire resistance and, if the 15mm thickness is installed, Knauf Soundshield Plus offers Severe duty too. Where extra fire performance is required Knauf Fire Panel can give 60 minutes’ fire resistance from a single 15mm layer and 120 minutes from 2 layers of 12.5mm boards.

The £25m venue is at the heart of First Street North, where it will be the cultural anchor of this major new mixed-use development, and is the product of a merger between two of Manchester’s best-loved arts organisations – Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company.

Image: courtesy of Wates