Acoustic performance in housing

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Acoustic comfort is an important element of the quality of life in a home. However, around 54% of households living in towns with more than 50,000 inhabitants say they are bothered by noise.

Indeed, there are multiple sources of noise and noise pollution can cause discomfort, problems with alertness, attention, learning, and affect health (stress, sleep disorders, cardiovascular pathologies, …).

Acoustics is a parameter that is very often neglected in the design and execution of a construction site. However, it is an essential element in the experience that customers will have with their accommodation which must therefore be mastered.

The process of guaranteeing satisfactory acoustic quality for a home should not be limited to the standards in force. Although there are certifications, such as Cerqual from the Qualitel association, their effectiveness may be limited. It is often wise to call on an acoustic engineer for the design phase.

The key steps in the process to ensure optimal acoustic quality are as follows:



1. Check Facade Ratings:


The acoustic classifications of facades are sometimes obsolete and no longer reflect the reality on the ground. Furthermore, manufacturers are only required to comply with these classifications with a tolerance margin of 3 dB, which is equivalent to a halving of acoustic efficiency.

Therefore, it happens that all regulations are respected, but that the acoustic quality of the building does not meet buyers’ expectations.


In the event that a once quiet street has now become a major thoroughfare, it may make sense to increase the acoustic performance from 36 dB to 39 dB, and this often represents only a slight increase in costs per square meter.




2. Ensure a good design:


The process begins with a careful analysis of the architect’s plans.
While some architects place great importance on acoustic quality, others emphasize aesthetics and may neglect this crucial aspect.


For cast-in-place concrete constructions,It is important to ensure that the facade sails have a thickness of at least 18 cm, but ideally 20 cm to obtain acoustic ratings above 35 dB.


On the other hand, brick, concrete block or wood constructions are much less insulating; It is therefore essential to check whether a good insulation complex is provided inside and/or outside. Prefabricated walls with integrated insulation (MC2i) are considered high-end because they offer excellent acoustic and thermal performance, but they are also more expensive.


Windows are often the weak point of a facade (apart from construction defects), and replacing windows can quickly become expensive. However, the use of remote air inlets can provide superior sound insulation at an affordable price.


It is important to separate the accommodation from each other and from common areas with concrete sails 20 cm thick, to which insulation is added if necessary, particularly when the sails overlook an elevator.



3. Reduce airborne noise:


Airborne noise is sound that travels through the air and can be caused by voices, music, traffic, etc.


A mass-insulator-mass complex offers optimal acoustic insulation against this type of noise pollution. For example, a concrete floor covered with a screed and insulated with acoustic insulation guarantees excellent vertical acoustic insulation. Likewise, a concrete wall accompanied by a stylish counter-partition offers good acoustic insulation.

However, it is important to maintain the continuity of these insulators to ensure good air insulation against the noise of voices, music or cars. The weak points of the complex are the elements most vulnerable to sound penetration, so it is crucial to check that the walls are not thinned and that the insulation is continuous. It is also important to ensure that the hatches have adequate performance in relation to the partition in which they are integrated.


Reduce impact noise:


Shock sounds are noises produced by impacts, drops or vibrations that travel through floors, walls and ceilings. They are different from aerial noises which travel through the air.

Impact noises can be particularly annoying in apartment buildings, as they can be heard in adjacent rooms and even on lower floors.

Common examples of impact noises include the sound of heels on the floor, moving furniture, slamming doors, children running, and construction work. Acoustic insulation can be used to reduce the transmission of impact sound and improve acoustic comfort in living spaces.

It is possible to remedy this considerably by using a vinyl or linoleum plastic floor covering, which sometimes imitate natural coverings to a fault. If buyers prefer parquet or tiled floors, make sure they have a concrete acoustic screed, or failing that a slab at least 23cm thick.


The quality of execution:

Standards and certifications often require good design quality. It is during execution that defects occur which can cause significant acoustic inconvenience. These can sometimes not be identified by certifying bodies, because verifications are carried out by sampling.


It is therefore appropriate to pay attention, or to ensure that the project management pays particular attention to certain points of vigilance. Errors very frequently encountered on construction sites include:

  • The discontinuity of the insulation under the screed: It must be ensured that it is never interrupted, and that when it must be temporarily interrupted, particularly in terms of plumbing requirements, that it is properly replaced when these are resealed.
  • Baseboards that stick to the floor: If baseboards, especially made of hard materials like tiles, are stuck to the floor, they transmit impact noise to the walls. It is necessary to ensure that they are separated from the floor by a silicone seal when they are tiled and by the resilient under screed when they are parquet.
  • Baseboards that stick to the floor: If baseboards, especially made of hard materials like tiles, are stuck to the floor, they transmit impact noise to the walls. It is necessary to ensure that they are separated from the floor by a silicone seal when they are tiled and by the resilient under screed when they are parquet.
  • Concrete “core” holes forgotten behind the lining: In order to tighten the formwork together to concrete the sails, holes are left in the walls, which are then filled with concrete “core” holes. If a hole is forgotten and the plasterer doubles the wall without paying attention, a significant acoustic weakness is created.

Generally speaking, it is appropriate to check the discontinuity of the materials and the use of resilient materials with good acoustic performance. Insulation under floating cork parquet can, for example, be half as effective as its synthetic material counterpart.

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