The new products are gaining fans. Earlier this year, the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) offered its seal of approval, naming mold-resistant gypsum one of its top 10 technologies for 2007. “Due to the fact that mold is less likely to grow on it, [mold-resistant gypsum] requires less maintenance and is more likely to survive water damage than traditional wall materials,” PATH said of the innovation in a statement at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla.
Moisture and mold aren't the only things keeping architects up at night. Sound transmission is an increasing problem as “open floor plan” houses, home theaters, and media rooms proliferate. Noise is an even thornier (potentially litigious) issue in multifamily housing. Durability is yet another concern. But there are wall-board products that can help tone down the din—and withstand everyday wear and tear, to boot.
For example, San Rafael, Calif.-based Supress Products in 2005 introduced sound-engineered wallboard for residences. Used in place of regular wallboard or applied directly over existing walls, Supress products provide an extra level of sound absorption in floor, ceiling, and wall assemblies—for less money, the company claims, than resilient channels and other traditional methods.
Another market player, Quiet Solution of Sunnyvale, Calif., offers seven sound-rated gypsum-based wall-board products. According to vice president of marketing Steve Weiss, soundproof wall-board is especially popular with residential builders. “We see extensive use of our products in single-family construction,” he says. “But a lot of it is being used in multifamily situations too.”
Falcone isn't surprised. “I believe this type of product has been used for many years,” she says, “particularly in the hotel industry, where sound separation [between] rooms is important. Our firm does a lot of ecclesiastical church work, and we've used [sound-minimizing wallboard] in a number of applications.” For example, she continues, “More churches are including sound and recording studios within their facilities, and acoustical boards can help isolate the rooms from the rest of the building.”
For all its ballyhooed benefits, gypsum is somewhat fragile. Dented walls are easily repaired, of course, but manufacturers—Herndon, Va.-based Lafarge North America; Diboll, Texas-based Temple-Inland; and Charlotte, N.C.-based National Gypsum Co. among them—are addressing that problem as well with products that better withstand abuse.