How does noise transfer affect the architectural acoustics of different environments?

If you search Google for ‘noise transfer’ or ‘noise pollution’ you will retrieve countless articles and research reports exploring the negative impacts of unwanted noise in any environment, from reduced concentration and productivity to increased blood pressure and anxiety.

Noise transfer is a common, and frustrating, issue that many residents, office workers, and building occupants struggle with. 

In this article, we will explore how noise transfer affects different environments, and how architects can avoid the problems that arise due to it.

What is noise transfer?

Noise transfer is sound transmitted from an exterior or neighbouring environment into a space. It can travel as airborne sound or mechanical, structure-borne sound. Any form of unwanted noise can be a nuisance and is especially problematic when reaching into environments where quiet and concentration is needed, whether a home or an office.

Noise transfer can have an impact on a tenant’s quality of life, sometimes completely subconsciously, either through productivity, concentration, stress or anxiety.

When buildings are constructed, architectural acoustics is an important element of design and must meet standards set in building regulations regarding sound insulation and soundproofing laid out in the Approved Document E for building acoustics.

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How can noise transfer impact environments?

When we consider noise transfer, we must remember that noise is just sound waves, and is a form of energy. When we evaluate the science of sound, we can understand it better. Similar to any other form of energy, sound energy travels until it dissipates, usually transforming into heat. And like with any form of energy it can travel through the air or objects (vibrational/mechanical). 

Different environments each will have unique architectural acoustics at play, meaning different solutions will have to be used.

For loud sources of noise transfer, usually in factory buildings or multistorey office blocks, the main source of noise transfer is vibrational. This includes examples where heavy objects are being moved on the floor above, or machinery is operational.

For vibrational noise transfer, you must isolate the source of the sound, separating it from any objects it can transfer sound through. Acoustic treatment such as sound insulation and soundproofing can block noise transmission from entering a neighbouring space.

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For environmental noise transfer, from car parks or airports, the acoustic considerations will require a different set of approaches due to the fact sound travels through the air, and therefore an area where air can get into a space, sound can too. Now unless you want to suffocate, air will get into a room – so we must manage external airborne noise transfer with other forms of acoustic treatment.

Glazing, facades and cladding can all prevent noise travelling from the environment into a building, dampening it as it travels through the building materials. Specifying materials with a high STC rating (Sound Transmission Class) will mean there is a more effective barrier to noise transfer throughout the building. However, it is important to note the STC rating doesn’t refer to mechanical noise transfer, only frequencies around the level of dialogue.

Finally, when we consider noise transfer, as mentioned above, sound travels through the air. This means any gaps in architecture, whether windows, arches, plumbing, wiring, HVAC systems, or ductwork, sound can travel through. Ensuring rooms have walls that reach to the ceiling, plumbing which is securely sealed, and other gaps are secured, will guarantee a reduction in noise transmission.

Why is it important to consult with an acoustic specialist?

It’s all well and good taking RIBA’s ‘Acoustics 101’ modules, but are you placing acoustic design and comfort at the forefront of your current and upcoming projects? 

For any element of a development, you will collaborate with structural and mechanical engineers – in the same way, taking advice from acoustic consultants can allow you to deliver a unique and effective development with high-quality architectural acoustics.

Working with an acoustic specialist, you can partner together to create a design-led approach, driven by acoustic modelling and data, to bring your vision to life whilst also perfecting the science of sound.

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Conclusion

If you are an architect or developer looking to achieve an improved acoustic environment in your next building project, then turning to Sound Zero for guidance and collaboration is the perfect option.

Our team of acoustic consultants is available to discuss your architectural acoustics needs to ensure you select the right acoustic treatment for the space you are working on. We have a range of products that can be completely customised to your colour, size, fabric, and other product requests.

Please do not hesitate to contact us today to go over our bespoke design-led acoustic solutions that can transform your architectural projects.

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