Wood is composed of many small cellular tubes that are predominantly filled with air. The natural composition of the material allows for wood to act as an effective acoustical insulator and provides it with the ability to dampen vibrations. These sound-dampening characteristics allow for wood construction elements to be specified where sound insulation or amplification is required, such as libraries and auditoriums. Another important acoustical property of wood is its ability to limit impact noise transmission, an issue commonly associated with harder, more dense materials and construction systems.
The use of topping or a built-up floating floor system overlaid on light wood frame or mass timber structural elements is a common approach to address acoustic separation between floors of a building. Depending on the type of materials in the built-up floor system, the topping can be applied directly to the wood structural members or over top of a moisture barrier or resilient layer. The use of gypsum board, absorptive (batt/loose-fill) insulation and resilient channels are also critical components of a wood-frame wall or floor assembly that also contribute to the acoustical performance of the overall assembly.
Acoustic design considers a number of factors, including building location and orientation, as well as the insulation or separation of noise-producing functions and building elements. Sound Transmission Class (STC), Apparent Sound Transmission Class (ASTC) and Impact Insulation Class (IIC) ratings are used to establish the level of acoustic performance of building products and systems. The different ratings can be determined on the basis of standardized laboratory testing or, in the case of ASTC ratings, calculated using methodologies described in the NBC.
Currently, the National Building Code of Canada (NBC) only regulates the acoustical design of interior wall and floor assemblies that separate dwelling units (e.g. apartments, houses, hotel rooms) from other units or other spaces in a building. The STC rating requirements for interior wall and floor assemblies are intended to limit the transmission of airborne noise between spaces. The NBC does not mandate any requirements for the control of impact noise transmission through floor assemblies. Footsteps and other impacts can cause severe annoyance in multifamily residences. Builders concerned about quality and reducing occupant complaints will ensure that floors are designed to minimize impact transmission.
Beyond conforming to the minimum requirements of the NBC in residential occupancies, designers can also establish acoustic ratings for design of non-residential projects and specify materials and systems to ensure the building performs at that level. In addition to limiting transmission of airborne noise through internal structural walls and floors, flanking transmission of sound through perimeter joints and sound transmission through non-structural partition walls should also be considered during the acoustical design.
Further information and requirements related to STC, ASTC and IIC ratings are provided in Appendix A of the NBC in sections A-220.127.116.11. and A-9.11.. This includes, inter alia, Tables 18.104.22.168-A and 22.214.171.124.-B that provide generic data on the STC ratings of different types of wood stud walls and STC and IIC ratings for different types of wood floor assemblies, respectively. Tables A-126.96.36.199.-A to A-188.8.131.52.-D present generic options for the design and construction of junctions between separating and flanking assemblies. Constructing according to these options is likely to meet or exceed an ASTC rating of 47 that is mandated by the NBC. Table A-Table 184.108.40.206. presents data about generic floor treatments that can be used to improve the flanking sound insulation performance of lightweight framed floors, i.e., additional layers of material over the subfloor (e.g. concrete topping, OSB or plywood) and finished flooring or coverings (e.g., carpet, engineered wood).