Structural panels now come in almost as many flavors as ice cream. In fact, there seems to be a specialty panel system for nearly any situation a multifamily builder might confront. Depending on your location, investing a little more in one of these can save time and money, reduce liability, and even turn down the volume on resident complaints.
Some of these products aim to give residents an oasis of quiet. "As land becomes more expensive and less available, more development is taking place near airports, highways, railroad tracks, and other noisy areas," says Ron Kelly of Knight-Celotex, which makes soundproofing panels for use between apartments as well as on exterior walls. "We're trying to make people aware of the advantage of providing some sound-stopping protection in the initial building phase."
Some panels are engineered to satisfy stricter building codes by beefing up the shear strength of sheathings in high-wind areas or adding racking strength to interior walls in seismic zones.
As builders look for ways to reduce cooling costs, radiant barrier panels are finally becoming mainstream for wood-framed projects in southern climates. Installed foil-side down over the roof rafters, they can lower attic temperatures by as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Because less heat is transferred into the living space through the ceiling, the mechanical system can keep living spaces cooler with less work while lowering a property's utility bills.
And with skilled framing crews becoming harder to find everywhere, there's even a panel that shows workers where to cut and nail.
For more information, call Norbord at 416-365-0705 or visit www.norbord.com. —Charles Wardell is a freelance writer in Vineyard Haven, Mass.