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Building Regulations require that builders demonstrate the sound insulation performance of separating walls/floors in new-build dwellings or rooms for residential purposes (as well as those newly formed by a material change of use) where they are attached to another dwelling/building or part of the same building not exclusively used by the same occupants.
The regulations set minimum performance requirements for sound insulation between spaces so as to provide reasonable conditions for living. Performance can be demonstrated either by testing a sample of as-built constructions/properties or (in England, Wales & Scotland) by registering to use Robust Details.
Sound insulation testing may also be required in non-residential buildings (e.g. schools, hospitals, workplaces), where as-built performance needs to be demonstrated to ensure noise sensitive areas (e.g. classrooms, wards, meeting rooms) are suitably insulated from noisier areas.
England & Wales
Approved Document E 2003 (incorporating 2004 amendments) sets out the applicable regulations for England and Wales.
Section 5 of the Scottish Building Standards 2010 sets the sound insulation requirements for Scotland.
Standard 5.1 deals with separating walls and floors
Standard 5.2 deals with internal walls and floors.
Part G of the Northern Ireland Building Regulations contains the regulations for Northern Ireland.
Parts G1, G2 and G3 deal with separating walls and floors.
Credit based schemes
Schemes like the Code for Sustainable Homes offer credits within their assessment process for undertaking a sound insulation testing regime and further credits where measured performance exceeds the Building Regulations minimum requirements.
Yes. It is possible to get credits for acoustic performance under Hea 05 and Pol 05. We can provide design stage advice to ensure your development satisfies the relevant criteria and carry out pre-completion testing to verify compliance.
England and Wales
On 1 July 2003 pre-completion testing became a requirement for rooms for residential purposes and houses and flats formed by material change of use. On 1 July 2004 the requirement was expanded to include new-build developments and in addition, Robust Details became an alternative to sound testing.
On 1 October 2010 post-completion sound insulation testing along with higher performance requirements became a mandatory requirement. However transitional arrangements were made such that testing was only required in new flats from 1 May 2011, and in houses and conversions from 1 October 2011. From January 2012 specific Robust Details that meet the Scottish performance requirements provide an alternative to sound testing.
Part G is currently out for consultation.
DnT,w is an in-situ measured performance parameter which demonstrates the level of resistance to sound transmission between two adjacent spaces (both direct sound transmission and flanking sound transmission will contribute to the measured performance).
Rw is a performance parameter that describes the level of sound transmitted through a single element, such as a wall, floor, door or window and it is measured in a laboratory where flanking sound transmission is negligible.
The DnT,w of a separating wall or floor will typically be of the order 5 to 7 dB lower than the specified Rw for the single element, due principally to the contribution from flanking sound transmission around the element when it is built on site.
Robust Details are specific design details approved by Robust Details Ltd (RDL) for use as separating walls and floors and have been tested to show their sound insulation performance. They can therefore be used as an alternative to pre-completion testing.
The specific details in the RDL handbook must be followed explicitly and each plot formally 'registered' with RDL. RDL carries out visual inspections and spot check tests before completion of registered plots to check that the plot(s) meet the requirements of the scheme. Robust Details cannot be used in developments formed by a material change of use (e.g. conversions) and so pre-completion testing must be undertaken.
As the specific details in the Robust Details scheme may not allow for flexibility in the design of a development or may not prove cost effective, pre-completion testing may prove a more suitable and effective route to demonstrate compliance.
England and Wales
Approved Document E 2003 states that one set of tests is required for every 10 units in a group or sub-group. A group or sub-group is defined where significant differences in construction or layout occur.
The sampling rate for testing depends upon the type of dwelling and the form of construction adopted.
Either use 'Acceptable constructions' or 'Acceptable upgrading' methods as detailed in Part G, or submit test evidence of construction performance in line with the 'Similar Construction Method' option. Requirements involve obtaining a sample 'set': the mean of the result set must achieve a specific level of performance and each individual result within the set must achieve a different specific level of performance.
Airborne sound insulation test
A controlled noise is generated by an amplifier and loudspeaker across a broad range of frequencies on one side of a separating wall or floor and the noise level is measured in decibels (dB) using a sound level meter. Measurements are also made on the opposite side of the separating wall/floor (i.e. in the neighbouring dwelling) in order to determine how much of the controlled noise being generated in the source room is transmitted through to the receiving room.
Impact sound transmission test
A calibrated tapping machine which comprises 5 metal 'hammers' driven up and down by a cam and electric motor, is used to simulate footfall noise on the floor surface. The resulting noise is measured in the neighbouring dwelling below, using a sound level meter.
During the test, high levels of noise are generated but in order to make accurate test measurements, relatively quiet conditions are needed. Anyone working in the testing area will have to leave temporarily and any noisy works in the vicinity of the test rooms will need to be halted.
The time taken for testing varies with site conditions, but generally a set of tests on houses takes about one hour and a set of tests on flats between two to three hours. During the test we will need free uninterrupted access to the rooms in both properties.
Plots should be at least at second fix stage - for further details please refer to our checklist.
Sound insulation testing in occupied properties following noise complaints from residents can be carried out at any time when suitable access can be arranged.
In line with the regulations you are required to carry out remedial works to ensure the development meets the relevant performance requirements and re-test. If you don't know what to do by way of remedial works then we can advise you.
You may also be asked by Building Control to test further examples of the construction elsewhere on the development in order to restore confidence and/or highlight the extent of the issue.
Approved Document E states that the testing body should preferably be UKAS accredited, or a member of the ANC (Acoustic Noise Consultants) and have joined their PCT registration scheme.
BSRIA is UKAS accredited to undertake sound insulation testing and as such we produce the necessary certificates ourselves rather than relying on a third party to provide the certificates.
Yes. We can carry out both manned and remote noise surveys to satisfy the conditions of:
Yes. We can help you with professional acoustic consultancy expertise and noise monitoring, to demonstrate Best Practicable Means (BPM) to address either Section 60 or 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (COPA).
COPA gives local authorities the power to control noise and vibration generated on construction sites.
Section 60 - a local authority may serve an abatement notice, requiring controls to be put in place to minimise the noise and vibration from a site. (Article 40 prohibition in Northern Ireland).
Section 61 - a formal agreement, requested before work commences, that allows the contractor and local authority to agree limits/controls such as noise levels and hours of work. (Article 41 consent in Northern Ireland).
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Technical guidance on Building Regulations
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