Principal Consultant  James Hart has written the following briefing note on the subject of whether the regulations are good enough as follows.

Building Regulations Part E specifies the minimum level of sound insulation for walls and floors separating one dwelling from another. However, with noise related complaints being the number one cause of complaints to local authorities for the past 15 years, the question is: are Building Regulations good enough?

There is a common misconception that if a property is built to current Building Regulations then the walls and floors will be ‘sound proofed’, i.e. people will never hear their neighbour. However, with noisy household devices (such as home entertainment systems) being more common than ever this is unfortunately not the case. To help reduce the risk of issues and to provide better quality, many developers aim to improve on Building Regulations requirements, for example aiming for 5dB or 8dB better performance. However, even with these higher levels of sound insulation, the possibility remains that occupants will hear each other.

But the sound insulation performance of the wall or floor is not the only factor to consider …

9 times out of 10 when we are asked to investigate the performance of a party wall or floor following complaints, rather than an “underperforming” partition, the issue is in fact low background noise levels within the rooms. This is common in developments located  a significant distance from or screened from roads. In these cases there is little ‘masking noise’ (e.g. noise from the road) and consequently the audibility of any noise from adjacent apartments is increased.

So what can be done?

Naturally, designing to 5dB better than Building Regulations (or more) is a great start. In some cases it may even be feasible to build even higher performance partitions. However, an easier and cheaper solution in many cases is to artificially raise background noise levels within the properties with an appropriately designed mechanical ventilation system.

It may seem counter intuitive to improve a noise problem by adding more noise but this noise masking approach can be extremely effective.

Each project must be evaluated under its own merits and therefore it is highly recommended that an Acoustics Consultancy is involved at an early stage in the design to help ensure that these matters are raised and dealt with accordingly. It is also important to ensure that residents expectations are appropriately managed during the sales process.

So, to answer our initial question : are Building Regulations good enough? The answer is: ”not always”.

We present webinars on technical matters such as these. Our next Webinar is on “The Acoustics of Facades” and will be held on 26th February 2019.  We are currently considering running a seminar on internal sound insulation design sometime in March or April 2019. If you would like to receive details of either of these webinars you can sign up by clicking here.