Noise impact assessment

Noise Impact Assessment

Planning conditions for all new developments, especially residential, schools and healthcare, require a noise impact assessment. A Noise impact assessment involves comparing the predicted noise levels from the proposed development against the prevailing background noise levels.

Noise Surveys

By measuring existing noise levels in an area, we can establish an appropriate noise level for new noise sources to avoid disturbance and ‘noise creep’. We also calibrate noise maps (see below) to show how sound propagates across a built up area.

Noise surveys are used to assess the impact of environmental noise on a new development, particularly residential developments, where they allow us to establish the acoustic strategy for ventilations and facades (BS 8233 assessment).

Where new noise sources will be introduced, noise surveys are the basis for a BS 4142 assessment (see below) to establish the level of disturbance occasioned to surrounding premises.

BS 4142 Assessment

BS 4142 is the standard used to assess the potential for disturbance arising from industrial and commercial noise sources. In a BS 4142 assessment, the noise from an existing or future noise source is compared against the existing background sound level. Penalties are applied for acoustically distinctive characteristics such as intermittency or tonality. Based on the difference between the ‘rating level’ and background and considering the acoustic context of the area, the likelihood of disturbance to surrounding areas can be predicted.

A BS 4142 assessment is usually required at the planning stage for new industrial and commercial noise sources. It can also be carried out where noise complaints are received to investigate whether there is a basis for the complaints.

Noise Mapping and Modelling

For complex sites, noise modelling is a great way to investigate how new noise sources will affect the surrounding area. Models allow us to consider factors such as the landscape, screening from buildings and the location of new noise sources.

We calibrate models using the data gathered from noise surveys, which means multiple noise sources in an area (e.g. roads, industry, rail) can be accurately represented. Models also allow us to optimise mitigation measures such as bunding and noise barriers, saving money for the client while making sure the surrounding area is appropriately protected from noise.

Here’s our recent work

dBx Acoustics

Noise, Fatigue and Acoustic Design In Call Centres

We are all familiar with call centres – and most of the time when we talk about them it’s from the caller’s point of view. Are you frustrated when you are put through to someone in another country? Does the fake friendliness of the scripted interaction annoy you? But step back for a moment and remember some of those calls – was there something else that bothered you?

I know from my own experience that many a time I have been able to hear the operator on the next phone, and sometimes the whole hubbub of the call centre, which both makes it difficult to focus on your own conversation, and may give you some concerns about the privacy of your own conversation.

Noise transfer between call stations, and the build up of noise in general, is even more of a problem for call handlers, who need to maintain their focus over many hours. High background noise levels lead to physical and mental fatigue and therefore reduced efficiency, as well as the potential for operators to suffer from vocal fatigue which may lead to higher than normal absence rates through sickness. A 2008 study found that 28.7% of workers suffered permanent auditory fatigue, and that by the end of the working day this number had risen to 71.3%. The same study showed 48% of workers reporting vocal problems over the previous 12 month period.

This issue isn’t about to go away, either – the world’s largest call centre, with 20,000 seats, is about to open in China.

In the UK, over a million people work in the industry and there are over 5,000 call centres. Clearly both from the point of view of employer’s extracting the best and most efficient work from their employees, and for the health and welfare of the employees themselves, acoustic conditions in call centres need to be carefully considered, whatever their size.

Whether you’re planning a new contact centre, or having issues in an existing facility, it’s worth talking to a qualified acoustic consultant before you embark on the installation of acoustic treatments. A careful balance of both screening and acoustically absorptive finishes is required, and even the noise produced by the ventilation system can be used to help provide some sound masking. A consultant such as dBx Acoustics can model the space and demonstrate the auditory effect of different treatment options, allowing the client to assess the relative benefits and costs of various treatment schemes. Being able to optimize the placement and quantity of acoustic treatments allows a more effective and cost-conscious approach to acoustics, rather than just installing some absorptive treatments and hoping for the best.

Happier, healthier call centre workers? More calls, dealt with better, with lower staff absence rates? It sounds good to us. If you would like to talk to dBx Acoustics about how we can help you with call centre acoustics, please contact us!

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