Good acoustic separation plays a key role in improving the quality of living and working environments, as well as the wellbeing of occupants and, according to the Gypsum Products Development Association (GPDA), gypsum plasterboard systems provide the ideal solutions.

GPDA says well-detailed and constructed gypsum systems can now be more effective in reducing sound transfer between rooms than traditional masonry, which despite its mass, provides no solid path for sound transmission. Lightweight gypsum partitions provide a high degree of separation due to a cavity between two layers or plasterboard. As a result, appropriate sound isolation can be achieved using slimmer gypsum partitions that meet UK Building Regulations whilst maximising living space.

Noise transmission through residential party walls and floors can be a serious nuisance for occupants. In order to address this problem, tough new sound insulation standards were introduced in the 2003 edition of UK’s Approved Document E (AD E). This was followed in 2004 with the development of Robust Details, a series of performance tested solutions which provide building designers and housebuilders with an alternative route to AD E compliance.

A recent report by the NHBC Foundation states that by 2010 over 70% of all attached homes under construction at that time were being built with Robust Standard Details. As part of its research, the NHBC also reviewed feedback from occupiers on noise in new attached homes built since 2004. This showed an encouraging downward trend in noise-related complaints, reinforcing that acoustic insulation standards introduced a decade or so ago have had a significant impact.

Modern gypsum products provide compliant acoustic solutions for new build homes, residential conversions and refurbishments, says the GPDA, which represents the UK and Ireland’s gypsum board and plaster manufacturers. For masonry construction, plasterboard and insulation plasterboard laminates can be applied directly on a proprietary lining system to improve sound separation.

In frame construction, both timber frame and the increasingly specified steel frame construction, gypsum systems can be used as linings to external walls, separating walls and floors. In this instance, acoustic performance is dependent on the degree of isolation of the two spaces where the separation of the frame, the insulating material and the type and thickness of the gypsum linings all play their part.  Gypsum plasterboard can also be used as a sub-base for the floating layer of an acoustic floor and as a ceiling liner on the underside where separating walls are required.

Member-manufacturers of the GPDA offer a range of tried and tested systems to satisfy a variety of acoustic performance standards, from minimum requirements to high performance solutions for specialist applications such as multiplex cinemas and hospitals. In most acoustic solutions the plasterboard is just one component of a system which comprises substrate or frame, fixings, sealants, insulating material and linings.

Even seemingly insignificant changes, such as altering the dimensions of service slots in steel studs, can affect the transmission of sound waves through a partition, with potentially major implications for its overall acoustic performance, warns GPDA Secretary, Crispin Dunn-Meynell. “GPDA members’ branded systems are subjected to laboratory-based acoustic testing and can also be tested on site using mobile devices,” he says, “so contractors and installers can be sure the system will perform to specification.”

Achieving good acoustic performance using drywall systems is also dependent on good practice at each stage of a project, such as detailing to avoid flanking transmission and avoiding penetrations which could compromise sound insulation. To assist with this, GPDA members can also offer advice and practical training on the correct installation of acoustic partitioning and flooring to achieve the required level of sound insulation on individual projects.

GPDA represents the four major gypsum board and plaster manufacturers: British Gypsum, Siniat, and Knauf in Britain, and Gypsum Industries in Ireland.