How the drywall and partitioning industry is changing

by Darren
How the drywall

Drywall and partitioning systems have made leaps and strides in terms of functionality, flexibility and design.


Corporate clients as well as high-end residential customers are increasingly using more decorative, flexible and functional systems. Walls & Roofs spoke to a few of the industry experts to find out what’s new in the world of drywall and partitioning, what common pitfalls can be avoided during installations and what designers, architects and construction professionals can expect from the industry in the future.

Michelle Cerruti, residential and hotel sector manager at Saint-Gobain Gyproc, says that while the look and feel of drywall is important, an increasing number of clients are focusing on environmentally-aware and sustainable products.

“People may not always realise it, but the drywall that you choose can impact the indoor air quality of the space,” said Cerruti. Corporate companies know that buildings with proper ventilation and a high indoor air quality lead to a more productive workforce, so this is something that specifiers and designers should keep in mind.

“There are currently drywall products on the market that actively improve indoor air quality by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air and converting them into safe, inert compounds that – once captured in the board – cannot be released back into the air,” explains Cerruti.

Acoustic insulation range
Acoustic needs of the client also play a huge role in the type of drywall that should be specified for any given product. If the client is in the commercial, hotel, education, health or community sector, design professionals need to consider the sound insulation features of the drywall that they are installing.

“Acoustic comfort is something that should be considered from the planning stage of the product. In commercial and educational settings, for example, high acoustic comfort is important for concentration and reduced disturbances. Acoustic insulation can also lead to improved recovery rates for hospital patients and better sleep for hotel and residential occupants, so it’s important that you specify a drywall with a sound insulation range of 66dB to 81dB,” adds Cerruti.

Health buildings are required to pass the most stringent technical standards, it is important to treat room surfaces with sound-absorbing materials, especially in corridors, entrance halls and stairwells in order to reduce the excessive reverberation in those areas. “Specialised software allows manufacturers to create customised solutions that offer great acoustic resistance based on the requirements  for the different areas within a building; be it in intensive care areas, operating theatres or hospital wards, to restaurants, reception or lobby areas, ballrooms and conference centres in hotels ,” says Charlene Lamb, communications manager at Lafarge.

The solutions available also include the use of ronolithic perforated plasterboards with diffusion and absorption characteristics which enhance the acoustic quality of the majority of spaces within the typical hotel. “Lafarge acoustic plasterboard, Pregybel, is available in the market”, says Lamb.

Impact resistance

Drywall isn’t only used in low-use areas and many design planners are starting to specify this walling product in heavy-use areas, thanks to the cost-effectiveness and durability of some of the products available on the market today.

“If you are considering drywall for a heavy-use area, you need to find a high impact-resistant drywall system with a durable structure. While these systems are still lightweight and non-loadbearing, they are generally developed with a higher density core to give greater impact resistance in heavy-use areas,” says Cerruti.

Lamb explains that areas such as hospital corridors are particularly susceptible to knocks by trolleys and beds being rapidly moved about, as well as by general public, therefore they required the use of impact-resistance lining materials. The impact resistant plasterboard is normally installed with the face-to-the-traffic side(s) of the wall in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations; it may be the first or second layer in two layer systems. Where appropriate, it may only be required to be fixed up to mid height of the wall.

Load-bearing studs and tracks for high walls (of 3,6m and upwards) can lend much-needed strength and stability to drywalls for the attachment of cupboards and sanitary ware and for the support of hidden cistern systems.

“Load-bearing studs and tracks for higher walls allow for the use of a single structural wall instead of two ordinary partition walls connected to each by fire-check boards in the cavity. This saves on labour cost, timing and often on material costs too, depending on the size of the wall,” explains Lamb, before adding how this can also help to withstand wind pressures.

Drywalls in kitchens and bathrooms

Some designers might be a bit cautious about specifying drywalls in high-moisture areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Cerruti explains that technological advances have made leaps and strides to create moisture-resistant RhinoBoard.

“Look for a moisture-resistant board that has water-repellent additives. Gyproc, for example, offers a drywall product that has water-repellent additives in the core and a distinctive green waxy paper liner. These types of drywall have been specially designed for use in wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens,” says Cerruti.

Bathrooms can also be fitted with drywall systems made with a combination of one layer each of Lafarge Moisture-Check and Lafarge Fire-check plasterboard to offer both moisture and fire resistance properties, the moisture-check board facing the bathroom tiles.

Avoiding common challenges and pitfalls
As with any type of walling system, drywall installations also come with their own set of challenges and pitfalls. Finding skilled installers is one of the most common challenges that drywall manufacturers face.

“The greatest challenge is the quality of workmanship,” confirms Lamb.
“Installers need to know virtually everything about the systems they are installing. Besides workmanship, product manufacturers also need to place emphasis on site inspections to ensure that the systems are installed correctly,” says Lamb.

In order to overcome these challenges and make sure clients have sturdy structures, many manufacturers are investing in learnership programmes and creating detailed product training programmes. Lafarge offers training at our training centre in Roodekop and on-site.

“You need people who are experts on the drywall system installing these products. Gyproc, for example, has three training centres across the country that teach learners how to install drywalling and ceilings,” comments Cerruti.

Why architects should use drywalls and demountables as finishes in their designs
Drywalling is a lightweight building solution that can not only overcome many time and budget constraints, but also provides a range of additional benefits that should be considered. Drywall applications can be custom designed to make the drywall fit for purpose for the specific requirements.

Thermal comfort
Drywall products used within building structures provide effective thermal insulation and relative humidity in a fresh, innovative way that limits high drafts or surface heating and internal temperature variations that reduce condensation in bathrooms and kitchens.

Acoustic benefits
Many drywall systems offer high acoustic isolation, limiting the transfer of airborne, impact and reverberation sounds through the building structure and the spaces contained therein. This adds significantly to indoor acoustic quality where users are ensured of privacy and quietness without being disturbed by unexpected noise.

Aesthetically pleasing
Drywall manufacturers are increasing focusing on creating drywall and plaster products that offer elegantly designed aesthetic solutions that promote the use of natural light, while considering glare and luminance to create a stimulating environment that contributes to clean modern lines and premium finishes required by architects designing high-quality spaces for discerning clients.

Quick, easy installations
Any architect or design professional will benefit from drywall products that work in modular systems. This way, buildings can be erected faster due to easier installation requirements which produce less site waste. This responsible approach decreases energy consumption, carbon footprints and running costs. Furthermore, these durable systems require little maintenance. Future renovations are much easier to perform since modular systems are flexible and easily adapted, removed or added to without compromising the entire structure, building form or the aesthetic – and there is minimal inconvenience to the user.

Design freedom
All corners of a drywall system are finished square and straight.  It is fairly easy to do curved walls, which is not always attainable in buildings that have been built with conventional construction materials. When the surface of partitions is skimmed, designers and architects are also able to achieve extremely high-quality finishes such as 3D elevations in walls.

Fire resistance
Fire-resistant solutions with fire ratings of up to 150 minutes can easily be obtained using partition walls, but with added advantages of thermal and acoustical resistance. “It is important to opt for a product that has been tested for fire resistance,” concludes Lamb.

When it comes to choosing a system that gives you the acoustic, decorative, functional and design possibilities that make a world-class project, drywalls partitioning systems should be considered.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Lafarge Gypsum and Saint-Gobain Gyproc for the information given to write this article.


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