Interior partition walls for non-residential and high-rise residential construction are an US$8 billion market opportunity in Canada and the United States (Crespell and Poon, 2014). They represent 1.6 billion ft² (150 million m²) of wall area where wood currently has less than 10% market share. To approach this market a new system would be needed to compete against the incumbent system (wood/steel stud plus gypsum). The system would need to have an installed cost before finishing of approximately US$5 per ft² or lower. The system would also need to meet several code requirements for strength, sound transmission and fire resistance (flame spread and burn through). Crespell and Poon further concluded that to be truly transformative, the system would also need to address major trends impacting the building industry including reducing labor, reducing skilled labor, reducing onsite waste, reducing call-backs, and easily recyclable with low environmental impact. A likely market entry point for wood-based interior partition systems may be in taller and larger wood buildings.
Work described in this report investigated the fabrication, installation, acoustic and combustion properties of prototype interior partition wall designs.
Two types of non-structural prototype interior wall panels designated Type A and Type C were installed between two offices in the FPInnovations Vancouver laboratory. Wood sill plates for mounting the prototype panels were fastened to the concrete floor, sides and top of the opening between the two offices to produce a frame for mounting the test panels. Panels were fastened to the frame using dry wall screws. This same method of installation is envisioned in practice. The installation method makes it easy and fast to both install and remove the wall panels.
Acoustic tests showed the difference in ASTC rating measured between a double wall composed of Type A and Type C prototype panels compared with a double wood stud wall with gypsum board faces was approximately 6 ASTC points. A 6 point difference would be clearly noticeable. Although the results of this study are largely qualitative, they suggest that the prototype interior partition panels would have an acoustic advantage compared to stud wall designs.
In a related study summarized in this report, the combustion properties of three prototype interior panel constructions, including Types A and C evaluated in this report, indicated that any of the three types of partition constructions could be used in combustible construction in accordance with Division B of the National Building Code of Canada.
A second related study, also summarized in this report, estimated an installed cost of US$4.07 per ft² including overhead and profit for unfinished panel partitions comparable to panel construction Type C (gypsum/OSB/wood fibre insulation) as evaluated in this study. Thus, there would appear to be potential installed and finished cost advantages for the wood-based panel partitions compared to steel or wood stud walls with gypsum faces.
Other potential advantages of the prototype interior partition panels compared with the most common, currently-used systems (wood/steel stud plus gypsum) include ease and speed of installation, ease and speed of removal, design flexibility, prefabrication including pre-finishing, and easy installation of services.
Based on the positive results of these exploratory studies, further development of wood-based interior partition systems including design, fabrication, installation and in-service performance would appear justified. Knowledge of the products and testing methods developed in these studies would be expected to speed further development.