Homebuyers expect far better acoustic standards with new guidance for local authorities
The acoustic standards set out in the building regulations of all the UK nations go nowhere near far enough to ensure we build homes that owners and tenants will love.
Over the past 20 years we have seen standards in areas such as thermal performance, ventilation, security and accessibility increased significantly, and in these respects, the homes that come to market today are a far cry from what was once deemed acceptable. Unfortunately, acoustic performance has been left way behind and we are – relatively speaking – still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to preventing nuisance noise.
So poor are the minimum standards for legal compliance that the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) recently published guidance to help local authorities go above and beyond Approved Document E in England and Wales, and promote the specification of higher acoustic standards in new build homes.
Published in March 2020, the UKGBC said that while Approved Document E contains specific requirements for sound insulation between dwellings in new buildings, as well as conversions, these are designed to achieve a minimum standard for the protection of health and safety. And “adhering to these requirements alone will not design out all unwanted internal noise, especially in settings such as cities, where high-density living often results in higher than average experiences of noise.”
Its guidance makes for interesting reading whether you are involved in building social housing or not. It intends to bridge the gap between what dwellings that meet the Building Regulations will achieve in terms of noise management, and the ability of those dwellings to meet the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Noise Policy Statement for England (NPSE) to avoid ‘adverse impacts on health and quality of life’.
The very fact that organisations like the UKGBC are having to publish guidance like this demonstrates how significant an issue this is. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from home buyers to conclude that they and tenants are often left disappointed with their new home.
Rethink design approaches and focus on detailing
The most common issues that householders experience can usually be alleviated with relative ease – but it requires a desire for housebuilders, architects and contractors to go beyond the minimum.
Take internal floors for example. Creaking floors and noise transmission through the floor, including through footsteps from the floor above, should not be a problem in the vast majority of properties when it is properly insulated yet it is one of the most reported noise issues in our experience. With 31 system based solutions available for floors and 30 systems for ceilings, Hush Acoustics can address these problems in virtually every type of floor construction which means homeowners and tenants needn’t suffer.
Lack of detailing also leads to noise transmission problems that are easily preventable. Holes for downlights and channelling for services will allow sound to transfer through a property if these points are not fitted with the correct type of insulation – which is readily available from Hush Acoustics. Similarly, and an array of insulation products is available to eliminate irritating general noises that will disrupt a householder’s lifestyle, such as light switches, running water, blinds being pulled on and plug sockets being switched.
Cutting down external noise
Given the shortage of sites for new housing developments and value of refurbishing existing properties, particularly in popular urban areas, more homes than ever before are being built in relatively noisy locations. Unfortunately, our building regulations fail us here too by not addressing the significance of nuisance external noise.
Sleep disruption is one of the biggest problems faced with excessive external noise. This is not only irritating for those affected, it can actually be damaging to their health. Good quality sleep is associated with lower weight gain, better daytime concentration, reduced risk of depression and a lower risk of heart conditions, amongst other health benefits, so the motivation to design-in good sleeping conditions should be beyond question.
By looking at the construction make-up of a property’s walls, floors and ceilings and applying the right acoustic control system from Hush Acoustics, the vast majority of external noise can be eliminated or cut to a comfortable level. This includes sound from technology sources being used nearby at a loud volume, domestic appliances running, the TVs, sound systems, gaming devices of neighbours, as well as footstep noise from pavements and car engine noise.
Seek specification guidance early to exceed customer expectations
There is no need to wait for the building regulations to catch up if you are seeking to build high-quality homes that buyers will be delighted with. In this social media age where reputations can be destroyed by one individual’s relatively minor issue snowballing, it makes financial sense to ensure there is no aspect of a new home that falls short of expectations. An up-spec of the acoustic performance, therefore, using products and systems that are proven and readily available is a tiny price to pay.
Hush Acoustics will help you achieve the right solution in any residential new build or refurb project. This includes a CPD seminar, which can be delivered online or in person, along with a host of technical datasheets, BIM objects, CAD drawings and installation guides