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The Principles of Building Acoustics

Posted in Acoustic Consultants News on Jul 20, 2018

From workplaces to domestic and industrial properties, the noise in buildings often needs to be controlled diligently - and that's where an acoustic consultant comes in. A professional acoustics consultant is a master in the art of controlling noise and minimising the transmission of noise where necessary.

When the transmission of noise can be managed effectively - be it by the design of the characteristics possessed by a space or the control of noise levels - a satisfactory environment, free from disturbance and disruption which can cause mental or physical stress, can be created.

It's all in the design

To guard against unwanted or unbalanced noise levels, sound planning at the design stage is crucial. An acoustics consultant will typically create an acoustic climate which ensures that noise transmission levels are agreeable with the specific usage of the room; be it for every day living or commercial use. Failure to plan ahead in this regard can cost money - if measures have to be taken to remedy a space after it has become occupied, there can be a heavy price to pay, not to mention the potential inconvenience.

Insulate and absorb

Because building acoustics need to factor in both internal and external sound transmission, sound insulation, as well as absorption, needs to be taken into consideration. Sound insulation is concerned with reducing the sound which passes between two spaces which are divided by a physical presence. Sound insulation design needs to consider two forms of sound energy - that which passes through a divider and that which passes through the surrounding structure, also known as flanking transmission. When a sound insulation project throws up problems, typically an acoustics consultant will set about finding the weak spots in a construction.

The flanking transmission mentioned earlier is a crucial element of the design stage in order to keep acoustic performance levels up. Small gaps and holes in residential buildings, for example, can mean that due to flanking transmission, acoustic performance is not up to scratch. This makes following the relevant guidance and meeting specific criteria such an important part of an acoustics consultant's job.

Meanwhile, when we talk about sound absorption, that refers to the loss of sound energy which occurs on interaction with a surface. Surfaces which are sound absorbent are capable of creating the right acoustic environment when placed correctly. Which materials are used is critical to how much acoustic efficiency an absorbent surface provides. In general, materials which provide softer finishes to a space will provide better sound absorption than those which are harder. It should be noted that the reduction of noise which can be achieved through sound absorption should not be seen as a replacement for proper sound insulation.

Reverberant energy

Another principle worth touching on is that of reverberant energy, which is the extent to which a sound can be heard after an initial sound has been made. In an enclosed space, echoes can occur, before the noise is absorbed by the surrounding features, as well as the air. The length of the period from the original sound being made, to it echoing, decaying and then dying away, is known as the reverberation time.

Construction considerations

There are plenty of best practices to bear in mind when considering the acoustics performance within a building. For example, if attempting to bolster sound insulation using a high performing element such as a partition, perhaps the worst thing you could do is then to position a low performing element within it - a door, for instance. If there is a significant difference between the sound insulation of two elements, the overall sound insulation performance of a space will be affected to a greater degree.

Go for guidance

In the UK, there are several relevant standards pertaining to acoustic performance. Among them is Building Regulations Approved Document E (ADE) – Residential Buildings, which sets out what should be considered a reasonable level of sound insulation between domestic properties. Then there is the Code of Practice entitled 'BS 8233 - Sound insulation and noise reduction for buildings', which provides acoustic ratings which can be applied to different building types. Some types of buildings have their own dedicated guidance, such as Health and Technical Memorandum HTM 08-01 Acoustics - Healthcare Buildings, which recommends levels of sound insulation to be achieved in healthcare environments.

Most of the time we can't see or feel it, but the acoustics in buildings can have a direct impact on life for their inhabitants - for this reason, it is always best to seek the advice of a professional acoustic consultant when undertaking building construction.

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30th May, 2017

I engaged Nova at the outset of my project (which I recommend you do) to assist with providing a detailed material specification and installation guidance. There was always someone available to help with practical enquiries and advice...

- C.G. Henry

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29th Nov, 2017

I had Adam come round to a property which i thought was beyond repair. He gave sound advice with exact details of what needed to be carried out in the most cost effective manner. Once the works were carried out he returned, tested it...

- Andrew Youngson

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6th Dec, 2017

I have worked with the team at nova on a number of projects and have always been very helpful and competitively priced. Highly recommend this company for any sound test and report.

- Carol Chaplin

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14th Jun, 2017

Excellent service, engineer was very informative and helpful.  Good customer service being able to speak to knowledgeable people on the telephone when making inquires about the procedure involved for the sound testing of our property...

- Bun Bar

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

2nd Dec, 2015

Good efficient service. Recommend it to all.

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9th Nov, 2015

Very attentive and friendly service, keen to serve the client, and absolutely not about dragging the case out for fees - will work to save the client fees, and understand the practicalities of the case and the opposition that applications...

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9th Nov, 2016

Adam was very attentive and very professional answered all my questions and returned all calls the engineer arrived at the time agreed and again explained everything before carrying out the test , and we received our report within couple...

- Charles OKell

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23rd Feb, 2017

Its a tricky area and you need the right support, Paul Robinson  brought Adam's team to the table and we'll be working together again in future for sure.

- Ainsley Black

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14th Dec, 2016

Although we had followed the building reg, in terms of sound insulation the property conversion still failed the sound Test. Adam was very helpful and professional and guided us to the point that when it was retested again we passed. Would...

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19th Jun, 2017

Friendly efficient and cost effective service, without complication

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26th Oct, 2017

Very quick service, would recommend to others

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20th Dec, 2016

Excellent service and communication with all the members of staff we had dealings with.  A very professional approach and attitude by all.  An experience that is refreshing within the building sector and a company I could recommend...

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2nd Oct, 2017

Fast turn around and great service, recommended

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21st Sep, 2016

Excellent service by Adam and the team at Nova. The service they delivered was efficient, competitive and I would highly recommend them!

- Carol Richards

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20th Jul, 2016

Having selected Nova Accoustics to perform a sound test on my latest project, I found the whole process completely professional, prompt & efficient .

The phone contact to set up the appointment was extremely  helpful...

- Michael Dickinson

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1st Mar, 2017

Having used Nova Acoustics on several projects, I would not hesitate in recommending this company.

- Steph Openshaw

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7th Sep, 2017

Fantastic service very quick and punctual highly recommended.

- Chris Bullerwell

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22nd Nov, 2016

Used Nova Acoustics to sound test a property we'd converted in the Newcastle area.

Excellent service from start to finish. Professional, helpful & reliable throughout...highly recommended.

- Andrew Holmes

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23rd Mar, 2017

Really helpful team of people and very quick service, which was greatly appreciated.

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17th Aug, 2016

We are a small design firm and NOVA Acoustics provided very sufficient services to our clients with reasonable price. And they are quick to respond too.  Highly recommended.

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24th Apr, 2017

Very good company, communicated all the way through.  Competitive pricing, I will be using them again in the near future.

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6th Jul, 2017

First Class, prompt professional service. I will recommend to other clients.

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5th Oct, 2017

Excellent  service so far and will be contacting them again for their services.

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26th Jul, 2017

Fantastic service from this company at a very reasonable price, would definitely recomend....

- Robert Myers

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27th Apr, 2017

I used Nova acoustics to sound test my basement flat conversion for the building control certificate

And found them to be professional and friendly. The test was done mid afternoon and I had received by six o'clock the same...

- Stephen Shaw

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13th Jul, 2017

Excellent service. Would recommend to anyone needing assistance with matters arising from acoustics and noise.

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29th Jun, 2017

iKoustic have worked with Nova Acoustics for some time now and they are constantly thorough, professional and super helpful in everything they do ... They are certainly our partner of choice ... Rick

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10th Aug, 2017

Prompt, friendly, efficient, professional... would recommend and use again.

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20th Mar, 2017

As most of you reading this message are now probably aware  the difficulty of finding guidance and compliance of the part E building regulations is an arduous task. Well search no more! Adam at Nova Acoustics not only talked me through...

- Kate Whitehead

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27th Jul, 2017

Speedy quote, arranging the testing & report! Seb was really friendly & efficient onsite. Highly recommend!

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26th Sep, 2017

Came promptly at the requested time. Did the work professionally and in good time and provided the required reports so no issues or problems to report.

- Mark Girdham

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27th Jul, 2017

NOVA provided a fast and efficient service. They came to carry out the sound tests on my 8 Bed HMO, which was a change of use from 4 flats. Very friendly and professional service. Mark (Hull)

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4th Oct, 2017

Excellent company, providing a professional service at a competitive price and a quick, hassle free  experience. I would recommend them to anyone.

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- Peter Phillips

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31st Aug, 2017

Excellent service from start to finish.

Highly professional team who where very accommodating to the team on site and worked exceptional well with everyone.

Having worked with other companies within the same...

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31st Oct, 2017

Excellent speedy service, Luigi was very proficient and professional at carrying out his job, a real asset to the company. Thank you Luigi. Kind Regards, Ant Mason

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