The Tall Building Working Group (TBWG) was formed in 2018 to address a global phenomenon where creaking can be heard in tall residential towers in high wind conditions. The group was established under the umbrella of trade body Finishes and Interiors Sector (FIS) and set about bringing together the entire supply chain, namely developers, tier 1 contractors, manufacturers, architects, specialist drylining contractors and engineers who are involved in the specification and construction of buildings where noise issues have been reported.

The starting point was to investigate the root cause of this phenomenon and then look at how occurrence can be reduced or better managed in new towers by providing better guidance for architects, engineers, designers and developers.

The group engaged with individuals and organisations from across the globe and absorbed the findings of all available secondary research before embarking on a structured research programme of their own, funded by members of the TBWG.

Further research was carried out by structural engineers WSP to present, in a graphical format, the inter-storey differential movement in vertical and horizontal directions affecting partitions and other elements of fit out. This document explains to the project fit out designer how a high-rise tower reacts to external loads.

•    External loads make building move: non-structural elements should be installed in such a way to allow for the movements freely.
•    Any locked in movement will cause distress in the non-structural elements.
•    Any frictional resistance to movements will cause noise.

The key to reducing the phenomenon occurring in future tall towers is sharing the information contained in the structural engineer’s movement and tolerance reports early with the system owners of the drylining, and providing movement joints to allow the elements of the internal fit out to move independently.

Manufacturers have been exploring different solutions and methods of mitigation. At this stage none have been able to completely eliminate the sound.

Commenting on the work, FIS CEO Iain McIlwee said: “I think this is a first. I cannot think of a single time when the construction supply chain has attacked a problem in this way. Rather than battening down the risk hatches, reaching for the contract and starting the blame game, this was a genuine attempt to work together to understand and collaborate to solve it. This is a body of work all involved can be proud of, not just because it will help unravel some potentially complex issues or maybe help people sleep more soundly, but because it is an example of how we can collaborate and be better as an industry.”

The TBWG is planning to hold another conference to share the report outcomes with the delivery teams, meanwhile a summary report is available here.

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