Ben Hancock, Managing Director at Oscar Acoustics outlines how housebuilders can combat noise transfer
Construction standards – particularly around new build homes – have come under intense scrutiny in recent times. However, whilst safety and sustainability are main priorities, the important area of effective soundproofing often gets overlooked. It means that spaces may look the part but are in fact, hellish to live with – noisy, stressful and a far stretch from the harmonious environments they set out to create.
The problem is widespread and for many of us, particularly those working from home, it can affect our concentration and sleep. Over time, it can even lead to health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, heart attacks and even strokes.
Tackling the crisis
Building Regulations Document E sets minimum standards for soundproofing residential buildings in England and Wales. However, while these ensure new-builds and conversions comply, the standards don’t apply to existing dwellings, leaving hundreds of thousands of previously built properties with inadequate sound insulation. Your upstairs neighbours may not even be particularly noisy, but due to the way most homes have been built, poor sound insulation and how sound travels between floors, you can still hear them.
When noise from above is a problem, the simplest solution is to create an isolated, ceiling, or ‘floating ceiling’ using acoustic hangers, which work by absorbing the vibrations that cause the transfer of unwanted noise between floors. With the right acoustic hanger, you can install an isolated ceiling entirely from the room below with no disruption to the room above – perfect for those working in flats and apartments. Systems that are height adjustable can even be used across uneven joists to allow for a flat with minimum ceiling height loss. Once installation is complete, it appears no different to a normal plastered ceiling.
Putting fire safety first
The issue of fire safety also needs to be considered and specifiers should always prioritise products that boast third-party tested accreditation. Acoustic hangers that have a BRE fire rating of over 90-minutes and are compliant with British building regs Approved Document E for airborne and impact sound should be the only choice. Opting for sub-par products at this stage could present a risk to life.
Shut down sound transfer
Another soundproofing solution for homes, no matter the size, is a cavity fill insulation. This works particularly well in conjunction with other soundproofing products for extra impact and works by creating ‘dead air’ spaces between and within its fibres, shutting down excessive sound transfer. It also helps lower heating bills by trapping heat, helping homeowners faced with rising energy costs. It’s one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to tackle unwanted sound transfer.
Typically, this can be sprayed into a cavity before the void is closed, or blown through carefully drilled holes on existing structures. It seals any gaps and cracks in the wallboard, around electrical outlets, plumbing and other irregularities so there are no compressed areas or voids to allow sound leaks or air infiltration.
Builders looking to boost their sustainability credentials should look out for recycled thermal sound insulation products that are made from natural, paper-based fibres. Again, as fire safety becomes more prevalent, it’s crucial that the product in question is fire-rated and adheres to industry standards.
Pride of place
New legislation such as the Building Safety Bill is continuing the conversation around the quality of new-build homes and it’s driving up building standards. Unfortunately, a lack of clarity around Building Regulations (2010) Approved Document E – ‘Resistance to the passage of sound’ is muddying the waters. Whilst it stipulates that walls and floors should reduce transmission to conjoining rooms, it fails to give instruction on the type of soundproofing products that can help overcome this issue.
The issue of unwanted noise isn’t going away and unsurprisingly, since the start of the pandemic, the situation has got worse. Annually UK councils receive more than 420,000 complaints about noise. This should be a wake-up call to developers who fail to take acoustic health seriously – it’s becoming increasingly important to occupants as awareness grows.
With more of us at home than ever, having the right soundproofing solutions in place can bring huge benefits to the mental and physical wellbeing of occupants. Those that stay one step ahead will not only be placing buyers at the heart of their design strategy, feeding into the Golden Thread, but for the wider industry, they’ll receive further kudos, being seen as forward-thinkers on a growing problem.
For further information on Oscar Acoustics visit https://www.oscar-acoustics.co.uk/