Supply chain tries to crack mystery of creaking towers

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 including developers, tier 1 contractors, manufacturers, architects, specialist drylining contractors and engineers.

Further research was carried out by structural engineers WSP into the inter-storey differential movement in vertical and horizontal directions affecting partitions and other elements of fit out.

Its first report found:

•    External loads make buildings 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.

It said 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 but at this stage none have been able to completely eliminate the sound.

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.”

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