Alan Case
Chief innovation officer and co-founder, HushFrame
Age: 67
Industry experience: 40 years 

Alan Case’s background in multifamily development led to a second career providing sound insulation to the housing industry. He invented the HushFrame noise insulation system in 2012 while researching ways to reduce noise between units in wood-frame buildings, which have become prevalent in the low-rise development category. Patented in 2017, the product is manufactured at a factory in Weymouth and has been incorporated by developers of projects in Boston, Brockton and Quincy. HushFrame even has found adopters in the music industry: Grammy award-winning mixing engineer Jaycen Joshua, who has worked with artists from Beyonce to Miley Cyrus, installed the system to control bass frequencies in his Laurel Canyon home studio. 

Q: What is your background in multifamily development?
A: My formal education was in orthotics and prosthetics. I found I was good with my hands, but my bedside manner wasn’t there. So, I went off and got into the construction business in the mid-1970s. I was born in Reading and always been a North Shore guy. We did some condo work, subdivisions and built a couple of small shopping centers. 

Q: How did you identify the need for a product like HushFrame?
A: I spent some time living in San Francisco and actually lived in a microunit downtown. I learned that you can live in a very small space as long as you have peace and quiet. In those environments, you have people in transitions in their lives: some are divorced, some are working all different hours. As you come home after a stressful day, if there’s not peace and quiet, you don’t relax. But you can live in a small space as long as you have acoustic privacy.  

Later I was developing microhousing and talking to architects in Boston about a small project in Beverly and we said, “How are we going to sound-isolate the units?” Typically, you’d build two walls with air space between them, but it eats at square-footage and it’s wasteful of material. So, I did a deep dive into noise propagation and how to control it. There’s almost no information and it’s misunderstood. 

Q: How does HushFrame’s technology work?
A: The silicone soundproofing is installed inside the walls and floor/ceiling assemblies. The noise energy that’s trying to cross through the assembly has to travel through the silicone core to get from one side to another. The vibration bogs down as it tries to crawl through.  

We’re educating people constantly. There’s a real lack of understanding of noise in these light-framed wooden buildings which are becoming the hottest thing. They are environmentally smart and it’s a focus for the industry to move toward the 4– and 5-story housing on top of a concrete or steel podium. In past years, these buildings were apartment buildings. Noise would go on between the units, and the tenant might move out. Now people are paying a couple of million dollars for a [condo in] a light-frame wooden building in Boston, and the litigation is starting to pile up. They say, “Oh my God, I can hear everything my neighbor is doing.” It’s a growing problem. 

Q: What’s the cost premium to incorporate HushFrame into a project?
A: Inclusion of our product into the building assembly – either the floor, ceiling or walls – is roughly $1 per square foot to the developer, so it’s really not expensive and it guarantees you quiet. 

Q: How do building codes play into requirements for acoustic insulation?
A: It’s really about education. There’s no articulation in the codes about how you do this. You’re relying on manufacturers’ brochures, and they try to sell you this insulation material that goes in the joist bay or the stud bay. You’re really on your own. The source material the engineers are working from are from the 1960s. The composition of the materials has changed since those protocols for testing in the 1960s, and the composition of the wood has changed. None of it tests the way it did then. But the engineers are following these charts from schoolbooks making representations that are no longer valid.  

Case’s Five Favorite Walkable European Cities Where Brilliant Chefs Abound 

  1. Lyon, France 
  2. Verona, Italy 
  3. Amsterdam, Netherlands 
  4. Vienna, Austria 
  5. Munich, Germany 

A Building Technology Antidote to Noisy Neighbors

by Steve Adams time to read: 3 min