Building permanent walls is definitely one way to quiet things down — and guard against bothersome and potentially harmful noise. But there’s another, more practical solution that costs less and speeds installation time: acoustic curtain walls. It’s why many decision-makers use them in place of permanent walls andpure Insulated Metal Panel (IMP) Systems, especially when the goal is to reduce noise levels and create more comfortable and productive work environments.

 In addition to sound-attenuation, companies have also found that curtain walls are omni-functional and offer unlimited flexibility in managing physical space. The result is the ability to adapt various areas to meet the needs of both employees and customers. Given the advantages, curtain walls are worth consideration when it’s time to get a handle on noise and keep it to a minimum.

 Acoustic curtain wall basics

Acoustic curtain walls (also called flexible or soft walls) are engineered industrial fabric curtains layered with sound-absorbing materials specifically designed to reduce excessive noise in virtually any industrial, commercial or institutional facility. Some walls can reduce noise levels inside buildings by up to 22-25 decibels (dB), making a space approximately four times quieter than it would be without them, depending on the existing noise frequency levels.

A typical wall is made of five-foot-wide fabric panels that are interconnected with Velcro® to span the width of a given space. The curtain height extends to the desired length. The fabric is designed to fit snugly around virtually any obstructions to close off noisy areas or equipment and is easily fitted around a framework if a door is needed.

A plant maintenance crew, or anyone who is mechanically inclined, can install a basic wall system with relative ease even if it involves doorways and obstructions. Typically, the top of the flexible wall is attached to ceiling joists. The weight of the curtains, while minimal to the roof structure, holds the bottom in place in almost all applications. Velcro corner connectors are used to form corner joints. The curtain walls, which cannot be used as load-bearing walls, can be installed as stationary systems, or walls that slide open and close. They can also be reconfigured as the needs for physical space change.

 Quiet down equipment & operations

The idea behind acoustic curtain walls is to protect employees’ hearing and enhance the comfort of people who work in noisy areas. The walls can be used to isolate loud-running equipment and noisy operations. Often, they’re used to partition and quiet down different areas in large buildings and multi-use facilities. Typical applications of acoustic curtain walls include factories, machine shops and a diverse range of industrial operations.

Acoustic curtain walls offer a number of advantages over permanent walls and IMP systems. By comparison, the walls are often:

n Easier to install: The walls do not require concrete curbing or a steel guardrail to protect the base of the wall, which makes installation easier. Additionally, there are no studs involved. Typically, fabric walls also do not require a permit.

n Less costly: The savings can be considerable. They’re realized because there are fewer steps; there’s no need to involve a carpentry crew; and there are no hard costs for concrete curbs, protective railings, studs, and metal framework on a basic wall. If a curtain wall is damaged, repair costs are low because the wall can be easily patched or replaced with minimal lead-time. Lower cost is also a major factor when a wall needs to be removed, reconfigured, or moved to another location. It can be done without demolition costs.

n Time-savers: Simplification results in faster installation. Additionally, lead-times are reduced because there are fewer people in the loop and permitting is often a non-requirement. Delays are minimized because some walls can be installed with off-the-shelf hardware. The simplicity involved in repair and/or replacement also saves time. The same is true if the wall needs to be taken down, repositioned in the same general area, or used somewhere else.

 Noise control: a top priority

Noise control is essential for the overall health and safety of employees. Fortunately, acoustic curtain walls give companies the ability to gain control over noise quickly and cost effectively.