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In Perfect Harmony: Balancing Fire and Acoustic Performance

The fire and acoustic performance of construction materials are important qualities that must be considered in any built environment. Numerous building codes and design standards exist to identify requirements for fire and acoustic performance to ensure the life safety and comfort of its occupants.

Taking this into consideration, it is extremely important to understand the factors that influence fire and acoustic performance and how the two can be balanced for truly harmonic design.

The Sum of Its Parts

Walls are evaluated to meet requirements per ASTM E119 for fire-resistance and ASTM E90 for sound transmission. The fire and acoustic performance evaluations are conducted independently under laboratory conditions and include all basic components of the assembly to simulate how the wall will perform in the built environment.

Factors like stud type, stud configuration, stud gauge, stud spacing, insulation, gypsum panel type, number of gypsum panel layers, fastener type, and fastener spacing all contribute to the performance rating. In short, no single component in a wall system carries the fire or acoustic rating—rather, it is the performance of an entire assembly.

As the manufacturer of products bearing the iconic Sheetrock® Brand name, we are often asked, “what is the fire/acoustic rating of your gypsum board?” This is one of the biggest misconceptions about products used in these system applications. As previously stated, no individual component has a fire or acoustic rating, but the USG portfolio does offer a range of gypsum panels that have been tested in a variety of wall constructions to achieve fire and acoustic performances to meet industry demands. In fact, 5/8 in. Sheetrock® Brand EcoSmart Panels Firecode® X (UL Type ULIX™) are included in over 450 published UL fire-rated assemblies.

Flexibility in Construction and Performance

The fire and sound performance are affected by the same components; but changes to those components can benefit the performance of one while adversely affecting the other.

To achieve the required level of fire performance, published fire-rated designs identify the minimum construction details. However, these are only the minimum requirements; there are a variety of construction options within a given design that allow for modifications to the components of an assembly. This allows for flexibility in the construction while maintaining the desired fire performance, but this can potentially affect sound performance.

For example, increasing the depth of studs will maintain or improve both the fire resistance and acoustic performance of an assembly; on the flip-side, increasing the thickness of the steel studs will benefit fire resistance but may negatively impact sound performance. Similarly, fire resistance is maintained or improved with reduced stud spacing, but sound performance benefits will decrease because framing acts as a conduit for sound.

The delicate balance between fire and acoustics can create challenges in identifying the most efficient solution, however through concerted efforts it’s possible to achieve optimal performance in each category.

The USG Solution

Finding the perfect balance of fire and acoustic performance can be complex. Any and all construction elements can alter these performance factors, so it can be a hefty task to undertake. Luckily, USG is here with the expertise to help you strike the right solution for your project. With an expansive product portfolio and a long history of performance evaluation and testing, USG is the industry leader in developing and innovating solutions to meet fire and acoustic needs.

Find a Gypsum Sales Rep near you and get started on achieving a perfectly balanced solution to bring your next project success—watch this video and learn even more about balancing fire and acoustic performance.