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Gypsum Cavity Shaft Wall Systems:
The Standard for Life Safety in Low-,
Mid- and High-Rise Construction

Page 2 of 11

By: Robert Grupe
Director, Architectural and Technical Solutions, United States Gypsum Company

Phil Shaeffer
Manager, Codes and Technical Support, United States Gypsum Company

Dean Updegrove
Product Marketing Manager, United States Gypsum Company

Gypsum drywall shaft systems are now considered the standard for low-, mid- and high-rise construction.

Selecting the Right System

The shaft wall selection process begins with a review of the key performance and design criteria that the walls will be expected to meet. While life safety is the overriding concern for all applications, specifiers should identify and prioritize the additional system attributes that best meet the remaining performance criteria and the other needs of the client. Following are some of the more important factors to consider.

Life SafetyThis is the most important consideration for all projects. The life safety attributes of a shaft wall system protect building occupants, support the interests of the client and help manage the designer’s risk. As such, the fire endurance of the system (one to four hours) should be verified by an independent testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and the primary system components (such as gypsum panels) should be classified by the same agency. Only thoroughly tested systems can ensure long-term performance of the shaft wall itself and key interfaces such as elevator doors, fire dampers and stairwells.

Wall Thickness – The thickness of the shaft wall impacts the square footage of usable/leaseable floor space. Gypsum shaft walls are usually the thinnest systems available and thus deliver the maximum usable floor space.

Weight – The lighter the shaft wall, the less dead load on the structure. Gypsum drywall shaft systems offer benefits here as well. They are the lightest-weight systems available.

Elasticity – Elasticity accommodates structural dynamics such as building sway, drift and floor movement, as well as the cyclical nature of loading from elevators and seismic events. Elastic and ductile shaft walls are normally preferable to stiff and brittle walls.

Abuse Resistance – Abuse-resistant shaft walls stand up to everyday damage and thereby reduce life cycle costs. The abuse-resistance of gypsum drywall shaft walls can be enhanced through the use of special abuse-resistant panels, surface coatings and/or veneer plaster finishes.

Speed of Installation – Faster-installing systems help streamline scheduling and support good design and project management practices. Again, gypsum drywall shaft systems offer significant benefits in this area. They install quickly and allow construction from one side only (the floor side). This eliminates the need for scaffolding within the shaft and helps create a safer working environment.

By evaluating and ranking the relative importance of each of these factors, specifiers are able to zero in on the particular type of shaft wall system that best meets the life safety and performance needs of the building, as well as other design and aesthetic priorities established by the client.

Page 2 of 11

 

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