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Award-winning good acoustic design: a case study

Rich Hinton was delighted to receive the Environmental Acoustics Award in June 2017.

The priority of good acoustic design is to enable residents to enjoy suitable noise levels with open windows, by careful site massing, and considering building location, orientation, internal layouts and mitigation. This example of good acoustic design is a housing development in Swanley, Kent, UK.

The proposed residential development site is affected by noise from an adjacent paper mill, as well as road and rail traffic noise.  The guiding principles of good acoustic design were prioritised by the design team, as two previous planning applications were rejected on the grounds of noise.  Prioritising the acoustic considerations inspired the massing of site layout, the internal dwelling layouts, and the holistic approach to achieving good internal environmental quality, which were essential to achieving planning permission.

The design team developed a series of measures which were incorporated into the site proposals including:

  • Apartment blocks adjacent to the paper mill, forming a noise barrier to shield the rest of the development and achieve reasonable external amenity area noise levels to proposed houses.
  • Layout of apartments arranged so that no windows of habitable rooms face towards the paper mill.
  • All apartment block balconies located on the opposite side from the paper mill.
  • Building envelope and ventilation strategy developed to achieve paper mill noise levels within apartments to be significantly below guideline values from Table 4 of BS 8233.
  • Noise barriers at the boundary of the site to control propagation of rail noise.
  • Holistic approach to noise, ventilation provision and controlling overheating across the site.

The site layout can be seen above and the internal building layout and window locations are shown below. The resultant scheme was granted planning permission with no objections regarding noise from the paper mill, their acoustic consultant, or the local planning authority. It demonstrates how the design of the buildings can enable passive ventilation, and maximise the use of openable windows on sites which have previously been considered as being too noisy.

For some developments, layout and orientation of buildings may not suitably control noise levels across a site and other mitigation options may be considered to enable passive ventilation strategies for controlling overheating.  We are organising a session of facade sound insulation and internal environmental quality at the ICSV24 conference in London, July 2017.

The developer commented:

Apex Acoustics took an entirely fresh approach to addressing noise issues and managed to get both the paper mill and local authority on board. Apex also advised us on the ventilation and overheating risks associated with acoustics – we will definitely take this on board for consideration as the detailed design progresses.

The judges felt this was a good example of making a site viable for residential development and showed how the two sides could work together to achieve a mutually acceptable conclusion. This was a reminder of how to approach such projects both in terms of acoustic design and working with all the parties concerned.

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