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The Sound of Silence & Noise in a Built Environment

Posted in Acoustic Consultants News on Aug 03, 2018

There's no denying that the general public is becoming more and more aware of noise in the environment. Although only 8% of land in the UK is taken up by cities, 54% of the population lives, and 60% works, in a city. It's not only cities where the impact is felt either. Even in relatively small towns and villages the shortage of available building land leads to in-filling and knocking down houses to build flats in their place; all of which increase population density. 

An inevitable impact of that increasing density is more noise from neighbours, traffic and other sources. The trend is to regard noise as a nuisance though, rather than a serious issue on the same scale as air pollution or energy conservation. Certainly, changes to building regulations in recent years have focussed more on energy efficiency and safety than noise insulation. 

But new and better-developed building materials offer increased acoustic insulation and enable buildings to factor noise in from core design through to build.

The personal price paid for excessive noise

Noise is an issue for people when it prevents them from being able to sleep or focus on learning, work or even their social lives. 

European Environment Agency (EEA) studies discovered that people experiencing noise levels above 40dB while sleeping (the highest level recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) outside a bedroom) will be disturbed and wake up during the night. Those experiencing levels above 55dB can suffer from high blood pressure and heart disease. 

A UK study published in 2015 by the University of the West of England looked at the effect of noise on problems known to be exacerbated by high blood pressure. It concluded that high levels of noise exposure had resulted in increased cases of dementia, strokes and heart attacks and that the probable cost to the country was around €1.34 billion. 

Overall, a WHO study revealed that up to one million healthy life years are lost each year in Western Europe as a result of over-exposure to noise in the environment, making it second only to air pollution as an environmental factor contributing to ill health. 

There are other health issues apart from those caused by high blood pressure. Tinnitus caused by traffic or leisure noise is becoming more common and is believed to cost the UK £52 million every year, in terms of demand on health services and lost productivity. Hearing loss from loud music costs an estimated £52 million and the cost of slower learning in children from excessive day and night-time noise is believed to be £252 million.

Nuisance and disturbances

There's considerable disruption on a social level too, with noise behind many complaints about anti-social behaviour. Monitoring and responding to these complaints is the responsibility of the local authority and the cost averages out at between £180 and £360 per incident for the local authority. It also, of course, causes distress and waste time for the complainant. 

A case study of noise complaints by Westminster City Council showed the percentage of noise for the top five causes for complaints in 2008 were split as follows:

  1. 48.4% - Residential noise (neighbours)
  2. 17.9% - Noise from commercial premises
  3. 11.1% - Building sites
  4. 10.5% - Noise in streets
  5. 7.5% - Burglar alarms

It was also observed that, for all complaint types apart from building site noise, complaints peaked between 8pm and midnight and at weekends, showing that residents were most likely to be affected by noise when trying to sleep, or get children to sleep. 

Hotels are also putting more effort into sound insulation when building or refurbishing, then referring to it by featuring the benefits of a good night's sleep in their marketing. The rise of TripAdvisor has played a huge part in advertising the poor quality noise insulation of individual establishments to a global audience.

Consumer awareness

This all demonstrates that people are becoming more and more aware of the impact of noise in the built environment. A few decades ago, having an energy efficient property would not have been a particular draw for buyers. But after ten years of steep energy price rises, it certainly is now. As awareness of the nuisance of noise increases, built-in acoustic insulation is likely to become a larger factor in house buying. 

Commercial buildings such as office, factories, schools and health establishments can also benefit from having acoustic properties considered at the design stage. The benefits of quieter schools, offices and buildings associated with health care, such as hospitals, nursing homes and surgeries, are obvious to anyone who's looked at the WHO and EEA studies referenced above.

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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...

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2nd Dec, 2015

Good efficient service. Recommend it to all.

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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...

- Robert Buchanan

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19th Jun, 2017

Friendly efficient and cost effective service, without complication

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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

- Allan Proctor

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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

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- 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...

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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.

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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.

Simon Phillips  Salisbury Poultry Ltd

- 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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