dBx Acoustics

Noise at Night

Noise at night can be a serious problem.

 With increasing housing density in our towns and cities, as well as our 24-hour lifestyles, noise at night is an increasing problem for many people. Where once you may have lived in a peaceful cul-de-sac, you may find yourself surrounded by student housing, dense apartment blocks, new shops, cafes or bars. Not only is noise from residents and customers an issue. We often hear complaints from people about late night and early morning delivery vehicles. You can hear a recent recording captured by one of our sound level meters, INSIDE a residential bedroom in Manchester, by clicking here. Another example is found here.

The effects of noise on sleep

The World Health Organization’s Night Noise Guidelines for Europe note that night noise can lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease, affect mental health, and affects metabolic and endocrine functions. Daytime sleepiness can interfere with work and social functioning. 

Who says that noise can’t kill you? A 1980s study found  that a reduction in sleep time is a greater mortality risk than smoking, hypertension and heart disease. In particular children, the elderly, and those with ill health, are considered vulnerable to the effects of sleep disturbance

Types of Noise

Interestingly, different types of noise have different effects. Noise is more likely to elicit an adverse reaction if we perceive it to be due to thoughtlessness or lack of consideration from others, if it is frightening, or if we perceive that it is indefinite. This accounts for why noise from neighbours is the most common source of noise complaints to Local Authorities in the UK. This is something we feel needs to be taken into account much more in the planning process; introducing high density residential developments into areas which were previously suburban terraces also means the potential for more antisocial behaviour and late night noise; this is now often an issue where private sector student accommodation is being located in residential neighbourhoods.

Can Anything Be Done?

In acoustic terms, ‘night time’ is between 11pm and 7am. It would therefore be appropriate for more Local Authorities to place controls on delivery vehicles to preserve this quiet time for residents. Similarly licensing committees need to consider not only noise emissions from bars and restaurants, but the typical late-night routes from these premises likely to be taken by patrons and whether they are introducing a new noise source into residential areas.

Cuts to Local Authority budgets mean that night noise teams are underfunded and overstretched. Often there is only physical cover for a couple of nights a week by one or two officers, who are unable to respond to the vast majority of calls received. More responsibility therefore needs to be put onto landlords and business owners to ensure that antisocial behaviour is controlled, for example with rigidly enforced tenancy clauses threatening termination if repeated noise complaints are received.

Change happens, and is necessary, but with some forethought and consideration, a lot of these problems might be avoided.

dBx Case Studies - Education

There is a proven link between acoustic conditions in schools and educational outcomes. Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) mandates minimum standards in primary and secondary schools for noise levels and room acoustics, as well as acoustic separation between teaching spaces.

The dBx Acoustics team can help you comply with BB93, but our expertise goes even further. We have extensive experience designing environments for pupils with additional needs, including autism and hearing loss, as well as higher education and noisier, practical workshop spaces.

New and refurbished school buildings must comply with Building Regulation E4 and the acoustic performance standards of Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) ‘Acoustic Design of Schools’. Whilst BB93 is not mandatory for higher education establishments, it typically forms the basis of the initial design for such establishments, with modifications as appropriate to allow for specific HE uses. Where projects are being designed with BREEAM in mind, credits HEA05 and POL05 are also relevant.

There are a number of different acoustic aspects which come together to ensure that acoustic conditions in schools are appropriate to support learning, and it’s so important to get it right – studies have shown that educational attainment can be directly correlated to acoustic conditions.

Our involvement often begins at the planning stage with an environmental noise survey, which allows us to advise on ventilation and glazing requirements to control noise ingress to the building. If mechanical ventilation is proposed, if there is an external MUGA, or if community use is proposed, the noise survey also allows noise emission limits to be set to ensure that existing neighbours are not adversely affected by noise.

Internal ambient noise levels in teaching spaces are also affected by mechanical ventilation, and we work with the M&E consultant to specify appropriate noise control measures, such as silencers.
When it comes to the design of the building itself, BB93 requires us to specify partitions and floors to control airborne and impact sound transmission between teaching spaces, based on their relative sensitivity and noise generation characteristics. The detailing of junctions and sealing of any services penetrations is critical in maintaining acoustic separation between adjacent rooms.

Having provided a suitably quiet teaching environment which won’t be adversely affected by activity in other classrooms, our focus moves to room acoustics and control of reverberation. Often this is as simple as specifying the acoustic performance of a suspended ceiling, but for large spaces such as Assembly Halls and Sports Halls, we undertake acoustic modelling to optimise the specification and placement of acoustic finishes. Where an exposed soffit is preferred, we calculate the specification and quantity of finishes, such as acoustic rafts and wall panels to control room acoustic conditions.

Finally, we carry out pre-completion acoustic testing on-site to ensure that all of the acoustic criteria for the project have been complied with on-site.

The dBx Acoustics team also have a particular interest in acoustic design for SEN schools, particularly schools catering to neurodiverse pupils. BB93 specifies design criteria for “children with special hearing and communication needs”, which is intended to include autism, ADHD and auditory processing difficulties, and assists in providing an environment in which speech transmission is clear and effective. The standard does not, however, consider the other acoustic aspects of school life which affect such pupils, including auditory sensitivities and the need to provide spaces to allow a retreat from the noise and bustle of daily school life. Our team’s direct and personal experiences of neurodiversity, both as parents and as individuals, helps us to understand the requirements of individual educational clients, and help guide the design of educational buildings to provide an acoustically diverse and appropriate environment.

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