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NOVA Acoustics

Noise Nuisance & the Arctic Monkeys

Whether it’s animals, arguments or music, noise nuisance can be a constant headache for whoever is unfortunate enough to be on the other side of the party-wall.

However, what happens when a developer chooses to build next to noise that they already know is there?…

This issue has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks, thanks to a famous music venue in Manchester, which has played host to bands such as the Arctic Monkeys and Elbow. The Night & Day (which is located in Manchester’s Northern Quarter), has apparently been making the lives of one resident in a nearby block of flats ‚’a living nightmare’, due the music which is it is renowned for entertaining.

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The resident said: “Nobody will understand that until you actually live in this flat and actually go through what we’ve gone through.

“It is hell. I’ve cried and screamed. It’s been very tough.”

The disruption to the resident’s life has been so great that it has led to them noise nuisance complaint being issued to Manchester Council; but the complaint has brought the wrath of the Manchester music scene down on the resident, who has seen the likes of Guy Garvey (Elbow) and Johnny Marr (The Smiths) signing an online petition in support of the venue which helped to launch their successful careers.

With more than 74,000 signatures pouring in to defend the Night & Day, things soon turned ugly for the resident who even received death threats for making their complaint to the council. This subsequently led to them leaving the block of flats.

Despite the exit, the episode stirred up a long standing issue of noise nuisance in the area as more and more residents came forward to support the original complainants view-point that the Night & Day was constantly exceeding noise-nuisance levels. This they claim, is largely due to club nights which the venue has been hosting.

“We’ve done what we do for over 20 years and nothing has changed,” stated the venue’s promoter Gareth Butterworth.

“There’s no new system. Nothing has been turned up or turned down. Why would we? Music too loud doesn’t sound good anyway.

“Venues are suffering up and down the country. Most of them are small businesses and they don’t really have the finances to fight this kind of thing, and they end up losing their business.”

The dispute played out on the pages of the National Media and has led to similar stories spilling out from small venues up and down the country.

A noise impact assessment has shown that noise in the flats nearby is likely due to inadequate sound-proofing when the premises were built over a decade ago. This has reignited a question that has been a hot topic within the acoustic consultant and building industries for a long time: who should be responsible for the noise when residents willingly move near to a pre-existing noise source?

The Music Venue Trust wants Britain to adopt an ‘agent of change’ policy, such as recently been put into place in Melbourne, Australia. In this model, it is the responsibility of whichever party changes the status quo of current noise environment to ensure that sound-proofing needs of noise-sensitive receptors are met.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (who govern noise legislation) have so far resisted a review of the current law within the United Kingdom.

Some critics have argued that suitable measures are already in place and noise nuisance complaints could be avoided, if only proper building regulations were enforced and adequate sound-proofing ensured in the first instance.

This is a sentiment which is echoed by managing director of the Noise Abatement Society, Lisa Lavia: “The answer isn’t to change the noise legislation. The problem is the issue of venues being next to residences, or dwellings being built against venues.

“This goes back to putting stricter requirements on the developer at the planning stage. The culprit isn’t the resident or the venue, the culprit is how noise pollution is being managed.’ she added.

Experts have also acknowledged that noise nuisance complaints can arise from both residential noise surveys and entertainment noise surveys; in order to avoid such complaints and adhere to building regulations, it is imperative to get an acoustic consultant involved with your project as soon as possible.

What should be considered when designing a building?

When it comes to designing a building, it’s important to consider some of the aspects that can have an impact on the acoustics. For example, partitions should be designed in such a way that they close against permanent walls.

When using base seals, they should be installed against a hard and smooth surface instead of a carpet because the fibres from the carpet will allow sound to travel through.

Gaps, cracks and holes allow airborne sounds to travel, and have an impact on the quality of the sound insulation of a building, so a building should be airtight to provide the best possible protection against flanking sound.

Design and construction are essential to acoustic performance

When it comes to insulating against both direct and indirect sounds, the most important phase of any building development is the design and construction. During this stage of development, it’s essential to consider the insulation for external, internal and separating walls.

External walls should limit the amount of sound that can be transmitted into a building, internal walls should be designed in such a way that flanking is prevented between rooms, and separating walls need to be considered in order to ensure two different areas within the same building do not suffer from flanking.

It’s important to remember that junctions between elements open up the possibility of flanking to occur, so the need to design and construct this aspect of a building carefully is essential.

When there are spaces that are adjoined, but have different uses, it’s imperative that the necessary steps have been taken in order to minimise or prevent flanking sound from occurring, so that the different areas within a building can be used for their intended purposes.

There are specific building regulations for noise and sound insulation called Approved document E which sets out the necessary requirements for sound insulation between different spaces, and gives guidance on how to separate elements in order to avoid the issue of flanking sound.

Just like direct sounds, indirect sounds can have a huge impact on the performance of a building, so ensuring buildings are designed within the constraints of the published regulations is an important part of the design and construction of a building.

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