Next-Generation MLV: Mass Loaded Vinyl’s Potential Applications

Soundproof Media Room

While Mass Loaded Vinyl has been a dependable and competitive product to improve STC in industrial settings for decades, there has been little improvement in the product itself in recent years. As we’ve discussed before, Mass Loaded Vinyl is a PVC-based product that adds a cheap filler, usually Calcium Carbonate or Barium Sulfate, to provide superior sound ratings. The initial versions of MLV included Lead as well but was replaced over the years due to health concerns.

The focus on product development has been on how to make the product cheaper, and thus more applicable to residential and commercial settings. This has led to a number of improvements in manufacturing and a search for cheaper filler alternatives.

However, the PVC-base of the product has not changed – until recently. After several years of product development, followed by 18 months of fire and acoustical testing, Commercial Acoustics has developed an EVA-based Mass Loaded Vinyl soundproofing membrane that has improved the performance without sacrificing cost competitiveness.

One major difference is that PVC is a naturally rigid material (think exterior panels for housing or fences). In order to make it flexible, you need to add a softening agent, known as a “plasticizer”. The downside of this is 1) added cost, and 2) the plasticizer migrates out of the product over time, causing the PVC to become brittle. This is why older plastic toys break easily if left outside for a few weeks.

While Wall Blokker is equally heavy as other types of Mass Loaded Vinyl, the improved flexibility also improves the sound-blocking capacity, on both Wood and Metal stud walls.

Regardless of your needs, Commercial Acoustics has years of experience installing Mass Loaded Vinyl and Wall Blokker products, to offer our a clients a full range of solutions for their unique problems.

Case Study – Naples Flatbread

commercial acoustics absorption panels naples flatbread

Naples Flatbread, a modern restaurant serving up artisanal flatbreads, recently discovered they were suffering from a sound problem. In addition to their restaurant services, the trendy location is equipped with a stage and offers live music to guests as they dine. Nearly all restaurants experience some type of soundproofing or acoustics problem, and hosting live music only adds to the need for expert sound treatment. Naples Flatbread found their sound solution with Commercial Acoustics.

Commercial Acoustics sent their acoustic experts to consult with the owners of Naples Flatbread. A clear height of 30′ combined with the number of sealed surfaces that restaurants require was causing something of an acoustic nightmare for the restaurant. The technicians analyzed the restaurant, considered its layout, and calculated the exact amount of absorption necessary for the space

Our acoustic experts determined that 75 acoustic panels would considerably improve the acoustics in the restaurant, effectively solving their sound problem. Commercial Acoustics manufactured all 75 panels, each measuring 2x4x2″. The experts then developed the ideal layout for the panels, installing 50 to the restaurant’s walls and the remaining 25 to its ceiling.

Commercial Acoustics was able to fully remedy the acoustic problem Naples Flatbread was experiencing. The restaurant is now the ideal location for guests to enjoy both their flatbreads and their live music events, without the burden of a noise problem.

Isolating Vibrating Machinery

Commercial Acoustics Isolating Vibrating Machinery

From factories to schools to offices, nearly all buildings contain some type of mechanical equipment. While necessary to keep operations running smoothly, mechanical equipment tends to generate a lot of excess noise. These types of machines vibrate as they operate, creating a type of noise that can be both heard and felt by building occupants. This is because vibrations move from the machines to various building elements, traveling throughout the building’s structure and spreading noise as they go.

Constant vibrations rumbling in the background make for a distracting environment in which employees and students have difficulty focusing and are therefore less productive than they could be. This common noise problem can be resolved with soundproofing techniques like sound isolation. In this case, sound isolation means separating the offending equipment from the building’s structure in order to prevent vibrations from being transmitted from the machine to structural elements. Resilient mounts can be used for this purpose by isolating vibrating machinery from the building’s structure. This solution works best when equipment is located close to columns or load-bearing walls, as these structures offer better support for the resilient mounts.

Typically, mechanical equipment is bolted directly to the floor, allowing vibrations to easily jump from the machine and attach to structural elements, sending additional vibrations throughout the entire building. By relocating this type of equipment so that it can be mounted to a column or load-bearing wall with a resilient mount, structure-borne noise can be diminished. While machinery treated in this manner will still project some amount of airborne noise, the removal of the structure-borne noise is typically enough to render the remaining airborne noise unnoticeable.

Noise from mechanical equipment may seem impossible to resolve, but with the proper soundproofing techniques, the noise problem can be eliminated without much interruption to the building’s daily use. If you’re concerned about mechanical noise becoming an issue in one of your projects, reach out to Commercial Acoustics to learn more about resolving this type of noise problem.

Understanding Speech Privacy

soundproofing and sound masking for open offices

What is Speech Privacy?

Speech Privacy can be defined as the inability of an outside listener to understand a conversation between two or more separate individuals. Effective speech privacy is an essential aspect of any office as it allows employees to:

  • Conduct confidential conversations without being overheard
  • Ignore distracting conversations
  • Understand in-person and phone conversations more clearly

Measuring Speech Privacy

Speech privacy operates on a scale of 0% – 100%, where 0% means perfect privacy (no communication) and 100% means perfect communication (no privacy). Most offices aim to achieve a speech privacy level of 5%. At this level, most speech will be unintelligible to an outside listener, though some words may be understood.

Achieving Speech Privacy

In order to achieve the desired level of speech privacy, there must be a careful balance between the noise created by the speaker and the ambient noise in the room.

When the speaker’s voice is louder than the ambient noise in the room, the speech becomes non-private, rendering it intelligible to all those within earshot.

When the speaker’s voice is much lower than the ambient noise, the intended listener will be unable to understand the speaker.

When the speaker’s voice and the ambient noise are equal, speech privacy will be at its most ideal level.

Direct Speech Paths vs. Reflective Speech Paths

Open office plans allow for direct speech intrusion paths, meaning speech will travel directly from the speaker to the listener. These paths may be blocked with the introduction of screens. Screens can be anything that blocks the sound’s path including acoustical products, furniture and cubicle walls.

Enclosed plans allow for speech intrusion through shared walls and doors, flanking, and sound leaks (cracks) in the building’s structure. These paths may be closed by sealing sound leaks, installing carpeting and softer furnishings, and installing acoustic panels to walls and ceilings.

If you have concerns about speech privacy in a current building project, contact Commercial Acoustics or leave a comment below!

Hotel Soundproofing – Hyatt Clearwater

Commercial Acoustics Hyatt Condo Soundproofing

The Hyatt Condo in Clearwater, Florida needed help soundproofing their ceiling on the penthouse floor. Directly above, dozens of patrons used the rooftop bar at night and during the weekends. While the penthouse suite affords the best views in the hotel, it is also the closest to the nightlife noise, and therefore often in need of additional soundproofing.

As we’ve discussed in the past, there is little regulation in STC and IIC ratings for soundproofing hotels. However, most of them have a brand standard that ranges from 55-60 points, and can be above 60 for luxury suites. By setting aggressive STCs and monitoring proper installation techniques, hotel management can expect to reduce customer noise complaints considerably.

The Hyatt Clearwater ceiling used a double-rack design with soffits to hide unsightly pipes and electrical, but this did not improve the sound attenuation rating of the assembly. Furthermore, treating the floor above was not an option, since the deck was already and completed, and beyond the waterproof limit of the hotel.

In order to achieve acceptable sound ratings, the client turned to Commercial Acoustics to provide soundproofing membranes that could be installed on the ceiling above. By implementing a heavy-duty soundproofing membrane along the ceiling, known as the Wall Blokker PRO, the team was able to provide significant decoupling of the ceiling while also adding additional mass to reduce airborne transmission. Ultimately, soundproofing installation on ceilings is the most difficult, and took a team of four almost one week to cover the nearly five thousand square feet. For best results, Commercial Acoustics recommends applying ceiling-bound membranes to the backside of drywall to expedite installation.

Commercial Acoustics Hotel Soundproofing Ceiling

Check here for more hotel and hospitality soundproofing case studies.

Commercial Acoustics in Partnership with Soundproof Atlanta

Commercial Acoustics Soundproof Atlanta

Commercial Acoustics has partnered with Soundproof Atlanta to provide a complete, service-oriented soundproofing solution to clients in the city.

Soundproof Atlanta has been providing soundproofing and acoustical solutions to the Greater Atlanta market for some time now. Steve Forrester, the President, has been working on various sound and acoustic assemblies for over a decade. What makes Soundproof Atlanta truly unique is that, in Steve’s words, they “don’t mess around with projects other than noise”. Most of their work involves window and doors for residential locations, in-home studios, and commercial studios. However, they’ll also treat unique open-space designs, restaurants, and other specialty requirements. 

Unlike other contractors that try to figure out the noise issues on the go (and on the clients’ dime), Steve and his team measure and inspect their installations in the field to ensure superior results, time after time.

Depending on the acoustical requirements, Soundproof Atlanta uses a wide range of soundproofing materials including resilient channel, hat channel on resilient mounts, soundproofing membranes and double solid core doors.

This partnership allows clients a seamless transition from a selection of the superior soundproofing products to an installer with significant experience and know-how to get the job done.  In the end, it’s the customers of Atlanta that benefit from the relationship.

MLV Barrier: When to Use Mass Loaded Vinyl

Mass Loaded Vinyl MLV Sound Barrier Soundproofing

What makes Mass Loaded Vinyl (also known as MLV) effective and what are its limitations? While it’s been around for several decades there is still a lot of misinformation about MLV within the construction industry. First and foremost, it should not be considered a “panacea”. While effective in many assemblies, it may not be as effective in some.

Standard Mass Loaded Vinyl is known by many trade names, though it is largely the exact same product extruded from the same few manufacturers in the US. Some of the trade names include MLV BlokkerTuffMass, AcoustiBlok, and Vinaflex, but many others are similar or equivalent. The polymer is an extruded Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) which is “mass-loaded” with a cheap filler, typically Calcium Carbonate or Barium Sulfate. When considering an MLV supplier, it is critical to ask for performance data (lab and field) and compare pricing. While these products typically cost around $0.30/sf to manufacture, the retail prices vary widely from $1.00-$8.00/sf.

The product is most useful on steel-stud walls that can benefit from some additional weight while not needing significant decoupling (i.e. double-studs or resilient channel), but can also be effective in industrial settings.

 

Pros & Cons of Mass Loaded Vinyl

Pros:

  • Pricing: Numerous suppliers of near-identical polymers makes it easy to shop around for best price
  • Field Performance: While many products test well in the lab, but underperform in the field due to grounding issues (i.e. Resilient Channel), mass loaded vinyl tends to perform near its lab value even when installation conditions are not ideal

Cons:

  • Installation Difficulties: Can be challenging to install due to high weight, flexible material. Installers should ask for detailed installation instructions and/or a complimentary site visit
  • Tear Strength: Low tensile strength makes tears common without proper support. Long sheets may require washers
  • Off-gassing: The plasticizers in mass-loaded vinyl can off-gas at room temperature over time, diminishing its acoustic performance

 

Tips when selecting Mass Loaded Vinyl:

NOTE/DISCLAIMER: Commercial Acoustics offers both PVC-based Mass Loaded Vinyl as well as Ethel Vinyl Acetate (EVA) soundproofing membranes, and numerous other types of soundproofing products (including acoustic gypsum, resilient vibrational products, and mineral wool, among others). By offering several approaches to achieve STC targets, and always supplying lab-tested supporting data, we believe that customers can compare apples-to-apples performance data with price comparisons in order to determine the best material for their projects.

For projects that have significant cost restraints, MLV might be the only option to increase the STC without breaking the bank. However, for long-term projects that can afford a 20% cost premium then Wall Blokker provides superior performance and results.

 

Consensus on MLV and Soundproofing Membranes:

Ultimately, Mass-Loaded Vinyl and other soundproofing membranes can be most effective when used in tested assemblies where STC performance is critical. Using MLV is often much more effective than double-stacking layers of drywall, but contractors and installers should be sure to ask for performance data (not just marketing material) and ensure that pricing is competitive.

Restaurant Acoustics – Sarasota, Florida

restaurant acoustics commercial acoustics speaks

Determining the Restaurant Acoustics

Speaks Clam Bar in Sarasota, Florida opened 2 months ago, and with the high-end marble finish and tile floor, noted that they were experiencing sound issues. Specifically, they had excessive reverberation in their restaurant that made it difficult for patrons to converse easily. Losing what we call “Speech Intelligibility“.

This is a very common issue Restaurants and other entertainment venues encounter when they have many flat, reflective surfaces and large, open spaces.

By performing a basic reverberation assessment, and modeling, it’s easy to determine the exact issue in the space.

Acoustic Treatment for the Restaurant

After performing an initial site visit, Commercial Acoustics manufactured and installed custom acoustic panels per the client’s needs, and the reverberation time in the space decreased from 1.6 seconds to below 1 second. This is an ideal reverb time for restaurants that are looking for a lively, but intimate setting.

Acoustics for Schools

commercial acoustics school soundproofing acoustics

Imagine trying to learn integral calculus with the drumming of a mechanical room next to you. Or trying to memorize Shakespeare lines or capials in the Far East capitals the band plays a marching tune above. This is a situation that many students in our nation’s schools encounter every day.

Designing and building schools for the proper acoustics is a challenging task, but one that is critical to allow the students to focus on curriculum rather than be distracted by poor reverberation or cross-talk from neighboring classrooms and areas.

Unfortunately, there is very little regulation in this arena, leading designers and builders to wonder where to turn when questions arise. Luckily, with careful research and review, there are a few leading sources to determine best practices and guidelines, and they’re available to the public.

One of these is ANSI S12 American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools, Part 1: Permanent Schools. This standard provides numerous guidelines for designers, especially STC’s and IIC’s for how much sound walls should block between various room adjacencies. For instance, well classroom to classroom partitions need only to block 45 dBs, classroom to hallways require 50 and above and classroom to mechanical room require STC’s 65 and higher.

Furthermore, this ANSI standard provides reverberation criteria in both classrooms and auditorium or assembly settings. By providing an allowable reverberation range, often 0.4 – 0.6 seconds, the standard addresses the difficulties students face when trying to focus with poor room acoustics. Best of all, the standard is free and available for public download. Please find it here.

DoDEA Department of Defense Education Activity, similar to the ANSI standard but less specific, the DoDEA standard provides similar target ratings for walls and floors. It is a good reference for military and large government education facilities.

Once these target STC’s are determined by the designer the next step will be to decide exactly how to hit each rating. This is often best done with the help of a consultant or acoustical expert – and many suppliers (including Commercial Acoustics) offers design-assist support free of charge.

By referring to these public resources designers may benefit from past lessons learned and best practices encountered by those most experienced in the issues when acoustics fall short in our schools.

Sound Masking Demo in Tampa

Commercial Acoustics Sound Masking Tampa

Commercial Acoustics has installed a sound-masking demonstration at its headquarters on Cypress St near downtown Tampa. A newer technology, aimed at providing speech privacy in open offices, Sound Masking is a tool that is typically most helpful in open office spaces or areas requiring long duration focus (libraries, classrooms etc.). Commercial Acoustics has installed sound masking systems in various local businesses, but now having a system installed at their own facility interested customers can visit the space to see the power.

Sound masking is a technology that deploys pink noise speakers typically above the ceiling grid to raise the ambient background level in a space. By raising the background noise, loud distracting sounds become less apparent to the “receiver”. For a list of sound masking case studies check here:

As you can see, the need for sound masking varies widely but is a good resource when sound isolation alone does not solve the problem.