Acoustic insulation sounds more profitable

Modern homes have become larger and busier places, making acoustic insulation more vital than ever. (Image courtesy CSR Bradford.)

Now the fastest-growing category in the insulation market, acoustic insulation is set to make a big noise in Australia’s domestic property market. John Power reports.

The global market for acoustic insulation products (across all industry sectors) is more than $10 billion(1), or about a sixth of the overall insulation market. That sounds impressive, even allowing for a lower ratio in home improvement markets, but the use of specialised acoustic insulation in the home has the potential to soar to even greater heights.

Changing demographics make acoustic insulation extremely attractive for a range of reasons (see following table), most obviously due to larger houses being built ‘shoulder to shoulder’ against neighbouring properties. Other noteworthy reasons include trends for more home-based businesses, requiring homes to serve as quiet workplaces for much of the day; as well as higher rates of occupancy by [noisy!] young adults opting to live in the family home for longer due to low housing affordability.

From a retail perspective, an escalation in sales of acoustic insulation can only be seen as a welcome phenomenon. Not only does acoustic insulation have the capacity to supplement sales of thermal insulation in today’s flat construction market, but it can also infiltrate previously tough insulation markets in northern Australia, where thermal insulation is often difficult to sell: noise does not have climate zones.

WHAT IS ACOUSTIC INSULATION?
Acoustic insulation is specially designed to minimise noise transference within and between buildings. According to Daniel Kelman, Customer Marketing Manager, CSR Bradford, acoustic insulation is often made using the same materials as thermal insulation, which in most cases is glass wool. “However, the key difference between thermal and acoustic insulation is the density,” Mr Kelman said. “Regular thermal batts are made anywhere between 8–10kg/m3, depending on the requirements of the application, whereas acoustic batts are typically in the range of 25–30kg/m3. So, there is a lot more that goes into an acoustic batt to create the opportunity to absorb sound.”

Maximising sales

Hardware retailers are at the frontline of insulation sales, offering guidance to consumers and alerting tradespeople to the latest fit-for-purpose products.

Perhaps the most important message to impart to customers is that acoustic insulation is readily available, well established as a product class, and widely used in new builds and major renovations.

Daniel Kelman, Customer Marketing Manager, CSR Bradford, says acoustic insulation is a growing segment which has seen year-on-year growth regardless of building cyclicality. This rise in popularity, he suspects, has a lot to do with current building styles and materials, which often feature an open living floor plan with many hard surfaces such as tile or timber floors and stone benchtops. 

“In addition, the internal walls that separate living spaces are mostly hollow and covered with a thin layer of plasterboard,” he says. “This style of construction allows noise to easily travel between the walls and rebound off hard surfaces, creating an acoustically uncomfortable home.”

Bradford SoundScreen is a high-density acoustic insulation product designed for ‘peace and quiet’. (Image courtesy CSR Bradford.)

In response to these kinds of noise intrusions, Mr Daniel says Bradford offers a range of insulation for residential and commercial buildings, from internal and external wall insulation to decorative acoustic panels for offices, restaurants and other workplaces.

“SoundScreen is one of Bradford’s well-known acoustic batt ranges, which is available in a variety of sizes suitable for internal walls and ceilings and between floors of double-storey homes. There are also multiple dimensions in the range to suit different stud widths of internal walls for residential, commercial and steel stud applications.”

Meanwhile, for external walls, Mr Daniel recommends that customers explore a high-density thermal wall batt, such as Bradford Gold HP, for superior thermal performance. 

Bradford, Mr Daniel adds, has a lot of information available on its website to educate consumers about the benefits of acoustic insulation.

“Also, Bradford is launching a new campaign in a few months’ time to inform consumers about the importance of acoustics comfort. The website www.soundscreen.com.au also has a lot of useful information,” he said.

Talk to customers

The best time to install insulation is during construction of a home or renovation, when wall and floor cavities are accessible.

This means hardware retailers should be prepared to answer basic enquiries about acoustic insulation performance and characteristics when customers are preparing for their projects.

For example, many customers are unaware of the thermal properties of acoustic insulation.

“Most acoustic products perform the same if not better than the equivalent thermal batt for wall applications,” a spokesperson for Fletcher Insulation said (https://insulation.com.au).

“So homeowners can certainly have the benefits of thermal and acoustic performance in the one product. Even for a ceiling application you can have up to an R3.1 in a high-density product.”2

Fletcher Insulation sells acoustic insulation for various residential, commercial and HVAC applications. 

“Especially exceptional is our residential Soundbreak range, which is a high-density wall and between floor batt that also has an excellent thermal performance.”

Another common customer query relates to mysterious terminologies, such as the Weighted Sound Reduction Index.

“The National Construction Code (NCC) has adopted the Weighted Sound Reduction Index (Rw) as a measure of the sound isolating properties of building elements,” the spokesperson explained. “A wall system with a higher Rw rating isolates sound better than a wall system with a lower Rw rating. An increase of 10 points in an Rw rating indicates a doubling in perceived sound isolating performance.”

“Typically, an internal wall on 90 millimetre timber studs containing 13 millimetre standard plasterboard on either side will achieve Rw 32. Incorporating Pink® Soundbreak™ acoustic insulation, for instance, within the stud cavity will typically enhance the performance of this system to Rw 42. That is an increase of 10 points in Rw rating – a doubling in perceived sound isolating performance.”

Acoustic insulation has the potential to make a huge difference to the livability of Australian homes in all metropolitan and regional centres, regardless of climate. As building construction levels decline, savvy retailers can certainly enhance sales by touting the huge benefits of a quieter home in which to work, rest and play.

ACOUSTIC INSULATION:  SEVEN SELLING POINTS

Increased Property DensityAs distances between dwellings diminish due to greater housing sizes and densities, as well as smaller blocks, noise abatement becomes a critical privacy feature. 
More Home-Based BusinessesAlmost a third (3.5 million) of all employed people regularly work from home, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).* Hence the need for quieter homes.
Noisier HomesWith the advent of home theatre rooms and open plan livingspaces, homes need increasingly robust noise barriers.
Kids Staying Home for LongerIncreased numbers of children are living in the family home into their 20s and early 30s, hence the need for noise control within properties.
More Shift WorkShift workers require peace and quiet at all times of the day to accommodate variable sleep regimes. 
Heavier Traffic FlowsTraffic flows, particularly in cities, are heavier than ever, often requiring serious noise abatement measures.
Investor AppealWhile most prospective buyers ‘expect’ thermal insulation tobe in place, acoustic insulation can be a distinct sales featurewhen selling a property in a noisy area.

Footnotes

  1. See https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/acoustic-insulation-market
  2. R-Values refer to the thermal performance of insulation products – the higher the number, the better the performance.