Acoustic Classification for Buildings

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acoustic classification of buildings

In this article, Teli Chinelis urges the government or the industry to adopt an acoustics classification of buildings scheme in order to combat a real threat to human flourishing.

The Frontiers Report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)[1] in February 2022 identified noise pollution as one of three looming environmental issues (alongside wildfires and disruptive timing of life cycles) that merit attention and action from governments and the public at large.

Noise is the single most significant issue of complaint made to local authorities in the UK. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) published[2] in February 2020 the results of its flagship noise survey. A total of 143,054 noise complaints were recorded by the local authorities that took part in the survey, 61 complaints for every 10,000 people. Residential noise accounted for the most significant proportion of noise complaints.

According to a study[3], Britons spend 92% of all their time indoors. The homes we live in significantly influence our health and wellbeing. Despite this, 20% of housing stock in England does not meet the national Decent Homes Standards [4] according to the 2016 review of housing stock conditions.

Acoustic Classification Certificates

Energy Performance Certificates were introduced in England and Wales on 1 August 2007 as a result of the European Union Directive 2002/91/EC relating to the energy performance of buildings.

Could something similar relating to the Acoustics Performance of Buildings be used to highlight and potentially address noise pollution? After all the UNEP identifies noise pollution as a “raucous killer”, and claims that prolonged, unwelcome, and high-level sounds from railways, road traffic, or recreational activities harm people’s health and well-being.

Building regulations typically specify requirements about acoustic conditions for new dwellings. However, complying with such requirements does not guarantee satisfactory conditions for the occupants. Thus, there is a need for a guideline with acoustic classes reflecting higher levels of acoustic comfort in housing.

ISO/TS 19488:2021(en) – Acoustics — Acoustic classification of dwellings

May 2021 saw the publication of ISO/TS 19488. The purpose of this document is to make it easier for developers to specify a classified level of acoustic quality for a dwelling, help users and builders to be informed about the acoustic conditions and define increased acoustic quality. The document can also be applied as a general tool to characterise the quality of the existing housing stock and includes provisions for classifying the acoustic quality before and after the renovation has taken place. An additional purpose of this standard is to help national authorities to define a specific class in building regulations as the minimum requirement for acoustic conditions in dwellings.

The acoustic quality for a dwelling is normally understood to refer to the quality of the acoustic performances typically included in building regulations, e.g. sound insulation towards neighbouring premises and road traffic as well as sound from service equipment. Sound insulation and room acoustics internally in a dwelling is not included in the acoustic classes defined.

The classification guideline specifies criteria for six classes A, B, C, D, E and F for dwellings, class A being the highest class and F the lowest.

One of the increasingly frequent complaints by apartment dwellers is noise from footfalls from the upstairs apartment. The current minimum impact sound insulation performance requirement for separating residential floors in England and Wales is 62 dB (L’nT,w) for new dwellings as per Approved Document E. Such a performance is classified as Class E in ISO/TS 19488:2021 which defines Class E as “a low protection offered against intruding sounds”.

ISO/TS 19488:2021 does not have legal status in a country unless decided by its own authorities. However, an additional purpose of this document is to help national authorities and standardization organisations to develop or revise national building regulations and acoustic classification schemes.

If you need any assistance in relation to Building Acoustics, please do not hesitate to contact Finch consulting at [email protected] or 01530 412777.

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[1] https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/deadly-wildfires-noise-pollution-and-disruptive-timing-life-cycles

[2] https://www.cieh.org/news/press-releases/2020/cieh-releases-latest-noise-complaints-statistics-for-england/

[3] https://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/ The Not-So Great Outdoors? | Ribble Cycles (a USA study put this figure to 87%)

[4] https://www.homequalitymark.com/2019/07/25/its-time-we-make-healthy-homes-the-norm/

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