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Noise and ventilation in dwellings

The combined issue of noise, ventilation and thermal comfort in dwellings is very significant for occupants, yet currently under-researched and poorly understood even within our industry.  Current requirements for noise levels described in planning conditions, British Standards and WHO Guidelines are not associated with either ventilation conditions or thermal comfort levels.  Apex has been leading the way in expounding the issues and proposing solutions to overcome this shortfall.  See our blog post here for more discussion on this subject of opening windows.  This work has now been taken up by an industry-led group through the Association of Noise Consultants, whose work towards a design guide is described here.  See our post on attenuated passive ventilation options for illustrations of a range of design solutions.

Jack gave a presentation to the Institute of Acoustics workshop in 2015 on Noise from domestic mechanical ventilation: how loud is too loud; read about it here.  This work has been developed into a full conference paper for the 38th AIVC Conference, 2017, looking for evidence from around the world of people’s tolerance to noise from domestic mechanical services.  Evidence from many countries indicates that when people find the noise from ventilation systems to be objectionable, they turn the ventilation down or off entirely, and suffer the adverse effects of poor air quality.  More research is needed to determine the range of noise levels and quality of noise that may be tolerable, and an interim target is suggested based on the available information.

The first step for acoustic practitioners is to associate a ventilation condition required under Part F of the Building Regulations with the noise level limits.  This is detailed in our conference paper and presentations listed below:

How loud is too loud? Noise from domestic mechanical ventilation systems, J Harvie-Clark, N Conlan, W Wei, M Siddall, Proc 38th AIVC, Nottingham, 2017

Problems in residential design for ventilation and noise, J Harvie-Clark and M J Siddall, Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics Vol 35 Pt 1 2013

The same issues are expanded and discussed in our articles published in the Acoustics Bulletin:

Problems in residential design for ventilation and noise Part 1: natural ventilation, Acoustics Bulletin Nov / Dec 2013.

Problems in residential design for ventilation and noise Part 2: mechanical ventilation, Acoustics Bulletin Jan /Feb 2014.

Currently different local authorities each take a different view as to whether their requirement to control internal levels from external noise ingress is associated with any particular ventilation condition: generally ventilation requirements and provision are poorly understood.

In a separate but related issue, noise from domestic mechanical ventilation systems currently represents a significant risk to the industry.  Other European country’s recent experience has been that regulation of noise from these systems is required to avoid excessive levels, which result in occupants turning the systems off.  In modern airtight homes, insufficient ventilation is a very real risk, and associated with many adverse health effects of which most people are unaware.

Noise from domestic ventilation systems, Poster presentation at Institute of Acoustics Conference 2014.

Noise and ventilation in dwellings: Problems and opportunities, Forum Acusticum, Krakow, Poland 2014.

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