Picture of Gary Erickson

Gary Erickson

Toronto Architect

SONOpan panels save daycare renovation money

Share this post

Navigating building codes with sound panels

Installation of 3/4 inch layer of sound panel insulation. SONOpan panels save money
Installation of 3/4 inch layer of sound panel insulation

Alison Grinton, the friendly owner of the historic house on 290 Runnymede Road, had run her in-home daycare for years. The photo below shows the fine historic character in the home. But she had a dream to level up to a fully licensed daycare. She wanted to spread The Montessori Schoolhouse daycare experience to as many children as possible, 17 on one floor. Her family reached out to me to be the architect for this unconventional renovation. I biked out to the snowy streets of Hyde Park to meet everyone.

Daycare classroom from the Montessori Schoolhouse. SONOpan panels save money. Historic home.
Daycare classroom from the Montessori Schoolhouse

Changing use to full daycare is a great challenge

I sat at the circular table in the future classroom for an in-person chat with Alison. Knowing the requirements of a full daycare, I was a bit sceptical at first, but Alison was committed to try. I suspected the old home had to be split in two, with an owner-occupied apartment above a daycare. That meant one big change at least, the two sections had to be separated by a one-hour fire-rated wall and floor, with the full 50 STC of soundproofing. And that is what this blog is about.

I accepted the challenge and put out the drawings for permit. But there was this typical bug.

The $0.00 budget challenge?

The Ontario Building Code offered few solutions for such a feat of simple engineering. Most cases would mean tearing down the old plaster ceiling. Installing 6 inches of mineral wool soundproof batts inside the joists.  Messy and expensive I thought.

This project was more challenging as Mr. Grinton had set a very strict budget. The whole job had to be done for $0.00 dollars!

Ok I get the humor. Every effort had to be made to save every penny. $0.00 is hard to meet. I admit to some spark of a challenge. How to minimise the cost while still providing a legal daycare with apartment above? Ok Alison,  you got me there.

Finding An Alterative Solution

I turned to SONOpan sound panels. The company MSL out of Quebec made them. They had a nice website with lots of good specifications.  I sensed something off though. The panels had no UL soundproofing tests for ceilings. They claim STC 27, quite a lot for a 3/4 inch thick panel. I called their technical department. Yes, it was true. Local manufacturers skip this step as the testing by authorities is expensive. The Building Materials Evaluation Commission (BMEC) application process is complex, but the tests and approvals are the only way to get the products excepted in the OBC.  This is what happened here. I had a promise of soundproofing with no accepted test.

Preserving History and Saving Costs: SONOpan Panels

SONOpan panels, made from 100% recycled wood, were used to navigate these government standards. The installation photo is posted above with the green SONOpan panels and silver metal channels to support the drywall below. These sound panels are not just eco-friendly but also highly effective in reducing noise transmission. The ease of installation meant that the renovation project could be completed much quicker than initially planned.

The use of SONOpan panels did more than just lead to significant cost savings. It also preserved the historic value of the well-built plaster and lath ceiling, which was worth 30 minutes of fire rating by itself. This meant that the contractor, Jonathan, a family member who was handling the construction, didn’t have to deal with the dust and labor of demolition and waste removal.

By using SONOpan, we were able to keep the original ceiling intact, saving both time and money, and preserving a piece of history. It was a relief knowing that Jonathan didn’t have to tear down the ceiling. This innovative solution not only met the building code requirements but also respected the historical integrity of the home.

Working closely with the inspector, a new ceiling detail was created. This ceiling separation detail is an adaptation of a legal fire and sound assembly but with a twist, making it a unique solution that both architects and renovators are looking for to save their clients time and money in renovations generally.

Building Inspectors Rule

The inspector accepted the solution, despite the lack of approved UL tests. It is in their powers to accept solutions if impacts are minor.

The daycare now meets the government standards for fire separation and sound abatement, and the use of SONOpan panels led to significant cost savings, as the quick and easy installation process cut down on labour costs. This innovative solution satisfies government control, client’s bottom lines, and contractor expense.

A Successful Renovation Journey

This renovation journey was filled with little challenges, but also innovative solutions. The use of SONOpan panels not only met the building code requirements but also respected the historical integrity of Alison Grinton’s home. It was a project that satisfied government control, my client’s bottom line, and Johnathan the contractor expense. This proves that with a new approach, even the most daunting challenges can be overcome.

Ceiling section detail with SONOpan sound insulation. SONOpan panels save money.
SONOpan installation details. SONOpan panels save money.

Building Materials Evaluation Commission (BMEC)

If the product is new and not yet included in the OBC, you might need to seek an approval or opinion from BMEC.

The BMEC evaluates and approves innovative materials, systems, and building designs. Submit a comprehensive application to BMEC. This application should include all test results, technical specifications, and any other evidence that supports the safety and performance of the SONOpan panels.