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Floors, Ceilings and Roofs for Fire and Acoustic Resistance

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The Building Regulations covering the building and renovations of floors, ceilings and roofs, despite being distinct and separate, often cross over. Likewise, although a multitude of materials go into the construction of each, there are common products.

Various materials are employed in the construction of floors, with concrete and timber being the most common. As with all construction materials, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Timber or timber-content flooring, such as cement particle board, has the advantages of being:

  • Easy to install with typical joinery tools
  • Lightweight in comparison to concrete
  • Perfect for projects where pouring concrete is difficult
    (e.g. walkways, mezzanines and platforms)

Once the decision to go with a wood or wood-content floor has been made, further analysis is required before deciding on precisely which product to opt for. When specifying building boards for flooring applications, an extensive and complex set of factors must be taken into account in order to fully comply with the Building Regulations, including Part B, Part E and Part L.

In order to meet these regulations, a wide variety of criteria must be factored in, including mechanical strength, impact resistance, acoustic performance, dimensional stability, loading capacity. If the board is to be used as part of an underfloor heating system, it must have good thermal conductivity to allow the heat generated by the system to pass through it and into the space above. Resistance to humidity is also important if the boards dimensional stability is to be maintained.

Particularly in flooring applications, it is important that a building board is adaptable. To enable it to be edge-detailed (e.g. tongue-and-grooved), calibrated and finished to match as broad a spectrum of floor finishes as possible, giving specifiers a much greater choice.

As with floors, ceilings represent a particularly complex area of construction, with fire resistance, acoustic capacity, thermal properties and structural strength all being equally critical factors if the necessary Building Regulations (Part B, Part E and Part L) are going to be effectively met.

It goes without saying that fire resistance is the most urgent of these, given the potential for loss of life, and here the regulations are especially onerous, such as EN 1182 and EN 1716.

Building boards used in ceiling applications, whether a suspended ceiling or a drywall, fixed ceiling, can be very effective due to their exceptional durability, mechanical strength, impact resistance, protecting the upper layers of a building from structural collapse in the event of a fire.

Given the importance of ‘the big three’ factors (fire, thermal and acoustics) when sourcing materials and products for suspended or drywall ceiling applications, it is very important not to overlook other critical factors which may effect a product’s dimensional stability, such as freeze/thaw, moisture exposure elongation, heat exposure deformation etc.

Building boards are used in roofing applications to provide a substrate to single ply roofing to deliver acoustic resistance.

Particularly in the case of acoustic roofing, soundproofing is something of a two-way street. Acoustic roof insulation prevents noise penetration from external sources such as flight paths and noise breakout from clubs, hotels and light manufacturing facilities. It is crucial in order to gain planning permission to demonstrate that any potential noise breakout is going to be reduced to within-regulation levels.

To give you an idea of how hard an acoustic roofing system has to work, and just how problematic it can be to have a building located on a regularly used flight path, here are some typical decibel levels:

  • 20 dB: a whispering voice
  • 50 dB: heavy rainfall
  • 60 dB: normal human speech
  • 75 dB: a washing machine
  • 85 dB: rush hour traffic
  • 90 dB: a hair dryer
  • 100 dB: heavy goods vehicle
  • 110 dB: a chainsaw
  • 120 dB: a pneumatic drill
  • 130 dB: a 747 airliner
  • 140 dB: a gun shot

To put this into context, exposure to 85dB is considered dangerous if the human ear is exposed for prolonged periods (approximately eight hours). At 100 dB, just 30 minutes of exposure can produce harmful results. At the 130 dB generated by a typical airliner at take-off, damage to human hearing can be both immediate and permanent.

Building boards are commonly used in floors, ceilings and roofs to compartmentalise and control, fire, acoustics and thermal loss through the structure. Euroform’s Versafloor, Acoustic Roofing System and MagnaTile A1 Non-Combustible Ceiling Tile can all play a significant role in ensuring compliance with the relevant Building Regulations.