Excessive noise is not just an irritant – it can have a real impact on our quality of life, health and wellbeing. David Garritt, a member of the Association of Noise Consultants (ANC), signposts professionals in the housebuilding sector to some of the ways acoustics can help mitigate the issue
When new homes are built, much thought is given to the surrounding environment – including the visual aspect. Other considerations can include proximity to schools, public transport links and general amenities.
Noise is not always an immediate consideration. Yet, according to the World Health Organisation, exposure to noise presents the second largest health risk to the population of Western Europe, second only to poor air quality.
It’s sometimes labelled the ‘forgotten pollutant’, despite the impact it can have on society. For housebuilders and developers, good acoustics can produce a range of benefits, including helping people feel happier with their homes, making the property more desirable – and potentially more valuable.
The value of good acoustics
Good acoustics can do much to improve and enhance society overall, creating a comfortable environment that aids enjoyment and supports wellbeing.
Excessive, unwanted noise, on the other hand, can have a profoundly negative effect.
It can ultimately impact on people and communities and has been cited as contributing to a range of issues including stress, depression and increased risk of heart disease.
Noise comes from a variety of sources, including typical sounds encountered in bustling towns and cities, as well as proximity to transport and travel routes.
Our homes are our sanctuary from the outside world and real problems can emerge if they do not reduce noise effectively enough.
The acoustic requirements housebuilders and developers usually have to meet can be divided into three main categories: Planning requirements or conditions if set by the local planning authority and contractual requirements or those set by the end client, if applicable, as well as Building Regulations Approved Document E (ADE).
BREEAM assessments might also be relevant for some developments. In the future, the proposed BRE Home Quality Mark will also be a consideration. Under the BREEAM assessment system, up to four credits are available for multi-residential and other, residential institution building types, so taking action on sound can have a positive impact in this rating. The ANC has recently launched a free to download guide giving more specific information on these areas.
An important document relating to acoustics for the housebuilding sector was launched last year, the Professional Practice Guidance on Planning and Noise (ProPG).
Current government guidance on planning and noise for new residential developments is found in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). One of the strengths of the NPPF is that it sets clear objectives.
However, the Institute of Acoustics, ANC and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health felt there was insufficient technical guidance for practitioners and developers on how to deliver the government’s objectives to build more homes.
In response to this, ProPG guidance was developed by a consortium of all three parties. This guidance complements the UK government’s National Planning Policy Framework and guidance to provide practitioners with an industry-recommended approach for new residential developments.
ProPG outlines what should be taken into account in deciding planning applications for new noise-sensitive developments, improves understanding of how to determine the extent of potential noise impacts and effects, and assists the delivery of sustainable development through good acoustic design.
It allows rapid identification of sites that are very unlikely to be suitable for new residential developments due to noise, saving developers time and unnecessary costs.
The guidance also provides quantitative guidance for proposed new residential developments affected by existing sources – and can potentially speed up decision-making on proposed residential development sites where noise is not an issue.
Furthermore, ProPG helps to reduce the harmful impact of noise on those moving into the properties and the surrounding communities.
Acoustics should also be considered in light of the changing climate patterns and the drive towards more energy efficient homes, and the impact of noise, ventilation and overheating.
To help housebuilders in this area, the ANC has formed a dedicated Acoustics Ventilation & Overheating (AVO) group to advise on factors including health and wellbeing risks for occupants, design risks for consultants and legal risks for developers.
The AVO group has considered acoustic criteria and guidance relating to different ventilation and overheating conditions. Environmental noise ingress and building services noise must be considered, so that living and sleeping amenity is preserved under all typical weather conditions.
The work of the AVO group is also intended to contribute to the practice of good acoustic design, as emphasised in ProPG.
The Association of Noise Consultants (ANC) is the voice of professional consultancy in acoustics, noise and vibration in the UK.
For housebuilders and developers, ANC members can offer assistance at all stages of the development process from site feasibility and planning through to validation tests to prove compliance on hand over. Their expertise includes concept design and planning, residential internal noise levels, sound insulation within residential developments and reverberation control.
Good acoustic design and advice can help to find the most cost-effective solution that meets the acoustic requirements for a site.
If improvements are needed to the acoustic design of a development, they are generally easier to incorporate early in project rather than later.
The ANC website includes information of relevance to housebuilders and developers, including further details about ProPG and the Acoustics, Ventilation and Overheating group.
Association of Noise Consultants
Tel: +44 (0)208 253 4518