Month: August 2022

Improving Acoustics in Dwellings

Improving Acoustics in Dwellings

When designing a new project containing multiple dwellings, why go further than just meeting the basic regulations. For instance, if you only manage to achieve the minimum requirements for compliance with Building Regulations Part E for sound testing, then the chance of noise complaints will usually be higher than if you better it by 5-7dB.  

We provide full turnkey solution to help our clients achieve Building Regulations Part E compliance.

Improving Acoustics
The World Health Organisation defines noise as ‘unwanted sound’ and such noise in buildings can have significant effects on the people (residents) who occupy them. If a person is subjected to excess noise for long periods, it can result in physical discomfort or mental distress and in many cases noise complaints. The WHO estimates that around 50% of the population of the European Union live in areas are exposed to noise levels that do not ensure acoustic comfort to their inhabitants and more than 30% are exposed to noise levels at night which is at a level disturbing to sleep this is simply not good enough.

Within homes, a noisy neighbour can be one of the main problems experienced in attached housing. It’s estimated that up to 4 million people in Britain have had their lives disturbed by noisy neighbours.

The best way to combat excess noise is to ensure that proper precautions are taken at the design stage of the project and thereafter during construction of the building. Noise transmission levels should be compatible with the building’s usage with the correct acoustic climate provided in each space.

The UK has the building regulations and a number of sector specific guidance documents covering noise, these are:

  • Approved Document E
  • Building Bulletin 93
  • Health Technical Memorandum 08-01
  • BS8233
  • BS4142

There are strong arguments for considering solutions which go above and beyond just meeting the minimum requirements in the above regulations. For instance using acoustic ceiling products and partition systems it is possible to create environments that offer greater acoustic comfort for occupants go above and beyond the standard Building Regulations requirements, which should have a positive impact on health, well-being and productivity.

The two main areas to take into consideration are usually the dividing wall and floor partitions. If you are unsure of how to build the separating wall and floor partitions and associated junctions across your project don’t panic, we can offer an acoustic design service. The degree of guidance you require can vary from site to site; however, we can cater for every eventuality by offering sample sound testing to establish the sound insulation performance of your existing wall and floors. Thereafter we can undertake more targeted design review using the information at hand.

When your project is underway, we can visit site and check the construction is being constructed as designed. Even minor alterations can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your sound insulation measures.

If you have a new project and you need help with your improving acoustics or sound testing then please email us at: info@aptsoundtesting.co.uk  or call us on 01525 303905. If you want more information on our full range of services please visit our website at: www.aptsoundtesting.co.uk

If you would like to download more information on how to prepare for your sound testing, please click download our sound testing checklist.

Why Have I Failed my Sound Insulation Test?

Why Have I Failed my Sound Insulation Test?

This is one of the most common questions we get asked by clients when their property has failed the sound insulation test. One of the main reasons for acoustic partitions failing the Part E sound test is often down to poor isolation of material/s, which can lead to excessive noise flanking. Noise Flanking is a term used by acoustic engineers to describe where sound passes through an acoustic partition due to the abutment of materials.

The noise simply hits the one side of the wall and then travels through the construction via a noise bridge. This can be areas such as the incorrect use of masonry wall ties i.e. solid fishtail ties, used in place of specified acoustic wall ties.

Sound Insulation Test

Sound Insulation Testing
Unwanted noise travelling along flanking paths can make the building structure vibrate, which can cause sound to radiate into your room. One simple cost effective solution is to build another wall or ceiling in front of the original, to offer extra isolation. For this upgrade to work you need to make sure that the independent wall or ceiling is not directly connected to the existing failed partition; so it provides isolation between materials.

Another reason for excessive noise flanking is often down to the use of down to the use of lightweight blocks in the construction of the building envelope. Due to the lightweight mas of the inner wall it allows sound to transmit from dwelling to another, both vertically and horizontally. If a building has failed its sound testing, it is essential to establish if the problem is due to direct transmission, flanking transmission or a combination of both so that the most cost and time effective remedial treatment can be designed and applied to the failed partitions. 

One of the easiest ways to reduce the chance of sound testing failures due to excessive noise flanking transmission is through a careful consideration to the acoustic design at the start of the project.  Unfortunately, by simply specifying high performance wall and floor partitions, it is no guarantee to adequate sound isolation and successful sound testing.

We offer preconstruction design advice to help you achieve successful sound testing in-line with Building Regulations Part E. We also offer onsite inspection services to ensure that the sound insulation elements are being installed as per manufactures guild-lines, as it’s no use having good acoustic design if it not being installed properly on site.

During early design and construction process, we visit site to conduct a comprehensive acoustic design survey and review, we also take this opportunity to meet; where possible, the site/project manager, architects etc.

The first stage of the acoustic design is to send through the design drawings – to include sections etc. We then review the design to check that the construction details proposed are capable of passing the sound tests. This usually takes place straight after planning has been approved as increased cost savings can be realised at the earliest stage, we will evaluate the construction methods and materials specified to ensure that they are capable of meeting the acoustic requirements of Approved document E.

The typical areas we check are:

a.            There are no flanking points, where isolated partitions are wrongly mechanically fixed together to caused noise bridging.

b.            The walls and floors design are acoustically robust, to comply with Building Regulations Part E.

c.             The acoustic treatments for Soil Pipes, Stair Cases Steel Beams etc. to ensure they are acoustically fit for purpose, as these are some of the areas that get usually missed.

d.            Acoustic floor treatments are compatible with the proposed floor finishes i.e. Carpets, Laminates, Floor Tiles and under floor heating systems.

We also provide on-going design support service, so you will have direct contact with the allocated acoustician from the start of the process through to the successful completion of the project. One of the most important services is the going site survey visits which allow our clients to feel confident about the outcome of testing at the end of the build.

The site visits let us check that the installation teams are installing the acoustic materials as per manufacturers avoiding crucial onsite mistakes. You can often have a compliant design which still fails due to poor workmanship; the site survey visits negate the risk of sound test failure.

We also offer an acoustic advice service for clients that have failed their sound testing. We offer simple solutions to reduce the noise levels and achieve compliance with Part E. We can supply simple easy to follow acoustic design reviews, utilising our extensive knowledge of different materials and construction methods

If you require more information about acoustic design and/or sound testing on your project, please visit the APT Sound Testing website or call direct on 01525 303 905.

Sound Testing to Minimise Noise Transference

Sound Testing to Minimise Noise Transference

Sound Testing to Minimise Noise Transference
There are many different types of intrusive sounds that can penetrate through external walls, party walls and separating floors. And these are a major concern for the inhabitants and users of both residential and commercial buildings.

In many existing buildings, where noise is a problem, any noise reduction is welcomed, giving comfort and relief by improving the quality of the living space. In residential building conversions, alterations must be designed to minimise the risk of disturbance from external noise sources from both neighbouring properties or from outside noise sources via the building façade.

Defining Noise

There are many ways to define noise; usually it’s any unwanted, unpleasant or unexpected loud sound’. Most people will be disturbed by any unexpected loud noise, but many are able to become accustomed and de-sensitised to constant background noises as long as these do not vary in pitch or become too loud or intense. A couple of examples of this are:  residents living under an airport flight-path or adjacent to a railway line.

Noise usually originates from outside the building envelope, via sound sources such as  traffic, horns, alarms and sirens, however noise can also be generated from within buildings via household activities such as televisions, radios and washing machines or badly maintained mechanical plant. Equipment such as old central heating boilers and air conditioning units, can generate significant whine and hum acoustics which can be very upsetting to certain ‘sensitive’ people and can greatly affect the person/s wellbeing. The preferred background (ambient) noise level in dwellings is 35dB. This is very often reduced to 30dB for sleeping areas as this is seen as the most sensitive area within a dwelling.

The subsequent noise intensity is measured in decibel (dB) units and uses a logarithmic scale. A 10dB increase in noise is normally perceived as a ‘doubling’ in loudness. The table below gives the typical decibel level of some example sound sources.

SOUND LEVEL (dB)DESCRIPTIONSOURCE EXAMPLE
10
20
40-50
50-60
70
80
Very faint
Quiet
Normal
Noisy
Loud
Very loud
Normal breathing
Whisper at 1.0 metre
Light traffic at 50 metres
Loud speech
Busy street, pub or restaurant
Vacuum cleaner or hairdryer

Improving Sound Insulation

In order to consider the options for tackling noise problems, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of sound behaviour and acoustic design.

In most instances the weakest acoustic area of the external walls will be window units. In existing buildings these are often Sash units and many councils do want them replaced as they are one of the most important features within the external façade of existing buildings.

As a result many councils/local authorities will not let you remove and replace original window units unless the frames are rotten and beyond reasonable repair, however despite this decent acoustic improvements can still be made by installing a draught-proofing strip to the opening lights, and by providing an acoustic caulk seal around the window frame. If it’s extremely noise secondary glazing units can be installed along with demountable shutters. One of the simplest improvements can be made via the installation of good quality heavy curtains fixed close to the wall; this can also be one of the most attractive upgrades and can also help keep heat within the home – a double winner!

If the building is being subdivided into new apartments then the walls between apartments will need to be sound tested in-line with Part E for Converted Dwellings. In this instance we can undertake sample sound testing on walls and floors to check the existing sound insulation performance.  We have considerable experience in all matters related to architectural acoustic design and detailing. We can help develop the initial acoustic design from the initial design scheme stage right through to the pre-completion sound testing. Our approach is robust and does not leave any room for errors using our In-depth knowledge of acoustic materials, construction systems and Regulations we can provide the following:

  1. Sample sound testing to identify the acoustic performance of the existing building to allow for targeted acoustic upgrades.
  2. Acoustic testing of existing wall façades to ISO 140-5, to check the existing sound levels so new targeted wall upgrades can be specified.
  3. Provision of cost-effective and practical acoustic solutions
  4. Thorough understanding of the desired character of the space
  5. Specification of External Building Fabric and including walls, doors and windows in order to minimise noise break-in, or break-out for privacy and overall acoustic quality

If you would like more information in regards to acoustic design or sound testing on your project, please contact us now at: info@aptsoundtesting.co.uk or call us direct on 01525 303 905.