You may think that insulation is installed just to help with retaining heat or regulating temperatures, but it can also be useful in controlling the movement of sound in buildings.
Acoustics is a scientific term concerning the properties of sound.
A recent technical paper – Healthy Homes: Acoustics – and blog – Healthy Homes: Designing Out Excessive Noise – that can be found on the UK Green Building Council’s website highlight the ‘distress and health impacts of living in an excessively noisy environment’. Recent research shows that a high level of noise exposure poses a risk to hearing. Medium to low levels of noise exposure can lead to annoyance, activity disruption and sleep disturbance. Long-term noise exposure can increase the occurrence of heart disease and hypertension.
With the outcome of this research in mind, it is a good idea to consider insulating your own home to avoid excessive noise exposure, such as from neighbouring buildings or external noise. Within housing and apartments, it can simply be the annoyance of hearing next door’s TV blaring or a shower in use that you wish to reduce. But did you know that there are performance standards to adhere to when designing buildings? For example, Building Bulletin 93 for school buildings, Healthcare Technical Memorandum 08-01 for healthcare buildings, and building regulations outlined in Approved Document E for England and Wales and Technical Handbooks Section 5 for Scotland.
The performance standards mentioned above set internal sound pressure level requirements for typical room usage, among other acoustic requirements. The acoustic term for this is Equivalent Continuous Level, which is area-weighted sound pressure expressed as LAeq. Some rooms require a lower LAeq, like a music practice room or operating theatre, where high levels of concentration and low levels of disruption are needed, compared to a gym or canteen.
To meet a required LAeq the amount of external noise and Sound Reduction Index need to be assessed and calculated by an acoustic engineer. Sound Reduction Index is area-weighted to produce single number quantities and characterises the airborne sound insulation of a material or building element over a range of frequencies, expressed as Rw (dB).