Will quiet homes be making more noise in the future?

Phil Brown, European regulatory marketing manager at Pilkington United Kingdom Limited, part of the NSG Group, reveals how a new International Standard could lead to homes becoming classified on their levels of sound insulation.

Do you know how quiet your home is? You may well do in the future, as a new International Standard for classifying the sound insulation in houses and apartments is currently under development. This could mean we start to see noise control ratings for residential properties in the same way that homes are issued with an Energy Performance Certificate, which appears on the estate agent’s description at the time of sale.

ISO 19488 AcousticsAcoustic classification scheme for dwellings, could introduce a classification scheme to make it easier for developers to specify sound insulation for new-build homes, with an approach that could be introduced into national building regulations. It may even be applicable to older properties after renovations have taken place.

The six classes

The classification scheme proposes six classes, class A being the highest and F the lowest class.  For each class, limit values are given for airborne sound insulation (traffic sounds, speech and music), impact sound pressure level (footsteps, jumping and dropped objects), and noise from service equipment.

A property that achieves the highest classification (A) would be expected to provide a quiet atmosphere with a high level of protection against sound, appropriate for homes under flight paths or near music venues. Class B should provide good protection, under normal circumstances, without too much restriction to the behaviour of occupants, like an inner city apartment. The lowest class (F) is described in the standard as offering no protection against intruding sounds, which could make the property fairly undesirable, unless it was in the countryside perhaps.

This classification system, if implemented, could have huge implications for housing developers and building specifiers. The class a home is awarded could add, or remove, a significant amount of value from the property. For buyers or renters, it could also add peace of mind that they are protected from noise pollution if, for example, they are looking at property on busy roads, near rail lines or in city centres.

Dual verification process

ISO 19488 would adopt two approaches to verifying compliance, to ensure the desired classification is achieved in practice. One is based on field measurements only, whereas the second approach considers checks at three key stages: design, mid-construction and completion.

In terms of building regulations, Approved Document E in England addresses resistance to the passage of sound in homes. As the scope of the building regulations is limited to transmission of airborne sound through separating walls, floors and stairs and impact sound, project requirements for noise control are often driven by higher demands of clients and raised expectations of the occupants.

Quiet Mark

As building regulations haven’t necessarily pushed the noise agenda, schemes like Quiet Mark have, to a certain extent, stepped in to ‘fill the gap’.

In response to public complaints received by the Noise Abatement Society, it was established to provide an independent scheme that would help consumers easily identify quieter products for the home. As the only glass to have been awarded the Quiet Mark, Pilkington Optiphon™ will make a significant contribution to helping specifiers achieve a high acoustic classification in homes.

Pilkington Optiphon™ is an acoustic laminated glass which offers noise reduction whilst still allowing lots of light to pass through the glass. It works by reflecting sound back towards the source and absorbing sound energy within the glass. It can be combined with other Pilkington products to provide multi-functional glazing solutions with additional features such as increased security, thermal insulation, solar control and even self-cleaning.

Ordinary insulating glass units do offer some sound insulation too, but this can be improved by using an acoustic laminated glass. The distance between panes, particularly for secondary glazing, can also help, where the larger the gap between the panes the better the insulation.

Stay tuned for developments

Although still in development and subject to change, ISO 19488 is expected to be sent for enquiry before the summer. If and when this standard is published, it could provide a framework for differentiation of one dwelling from another in terms of sound insulation.

We could see house buyers selecting where they choose to live on the basis of how quiet their new home will be, as well as its energy performance, proximity to schools, commute times, etc.  Could quiet homes be making more noise in future?