Future of Building Regulations: Acoustics?

Charged with directing the United Nations’ global health responses, the World Health Organisation has monitored and made recommendations surrounding the impact of noise pollution on humanity for more than a decade.

As the Heathrow expansion is set to go forward, the HS2 rail line starts invading back gardens and housing developments are constructed on more brownfield sites, we ask ourselves if acoustics will be featured in the building regulations of the future – and discuss with one leading window systems company how it’s already tackling the issue.

More than an annoyance

The impact of noise pollution goes far beyond an inconvenience for those of us living near airports, railway lines and in urban areas – that annoyance can also have a negative impact on our health.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), prolonged exposure to noise pollution can have serious health impacts. In 2018, the WHO published its Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region – highlighting the impacts of noise pollution from sources such as road, rail and air traffic as well as urban development – and gave its recommendations for what building contractors can do to minimise them.

The report indicates certain medical conditions can be brought on or aggravated by noise pollution, as well as impacting our children’s learning and development. For example:

  • 5% increased risk of cardiovascular and ischaemic heart disease
  • 10% increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • 3% absolute risk of high sleep disturbance
  • 10% absolute risk of high annoyance as defined by the WHO
  • 1 month delay in oral and reading comprehension for children

You may ask yourself how noise can have this type of impact on our health; in fact, it isn’t so much the noise itself that’s the problem, but the reactions it causes in those exposed to it. Increased annoyance or stress can have severe impacts on health – as can a lack of sleep due to disturbance.

Legislation is on the horizon

The government is beginning to listen to the impacts on health that noise pollution can cause – and the anticipated strain it will put on the NHS. It stands to reason that in the not too distant future, the industry will see additional building regulations surrounding noise reduction – especially in student accommodation, council properties, nursing homes and schools.

Where fenestration fits in

Sound dampening measures in fenestration isn’t a new trend. In fact, windows aimed at reducing noise pollution have been around since the mid-1970s, but as urban areas continue to spread and noise levels increase, more families will be looking for a respite and a way to make their homes a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Currently, there are a variety of ways installers can improve the noise reduction levels of a window or door, including:

  • Double, triple or quadruple glazing
  • Thicker glass used in the glazing process
  • Laminated layers between glass without affecting clarity
  • Large gaps between panes
  • Specifically designed frames that are suited to acoustics

Ahead of the curve

Known for being proactive, Liniar’s flagship 70mm system already meets the WHO guidelines for noise reduction. Its EnergyPlus windows have already been used in projects that met these guidelines and required acoustically sound windows – but that wasn’t the end of the innovative system company’s acoustic journey.

The development of a 90mm PassivHaus-accredited window system from Liniar in 2017 has also resulted in the excellent additional benefit of noise reduction up to 42 decibels – exceeding the WHO guidelines.

The EnergyPlus90 system looks and acts as a 70mm window and is ideal for using in high frequency areas – airports, rail lines, etc. This window doesn’t rely simply on changes to the glazing to achieve superior acoustic ratings. Instead, the nine-chamber system which was originally designed to achieve an A+ 40 WER rating and secure PassivHaus accreditation also acts as a buffer against external noise pollution.

Preparing for the future

Whilst energy ratings and thermal performance are at the forefront of the industry’s mind, it’s a safe bet that acoustics will soon play a part. Being proactive will ensure the longevity of products while providing customers with a product that not looks exceptions but also provides them peace of mind.

For more information about the World Health Organisation’s Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region visit http://www.euro.who.int/.

Discover the UK’s first PassivHaus PVCu window, Liniar’s EnergyPlus90 and find out more about its noise reduction capabilities at www.liniar.co.uk/upv-windows/passivhaus/.


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