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SECTION

3
Sound insulation

General principles and typical constructions are shown in this section.


Space does not allow all details for each type of construction to be shown.
Many such details are illustrated and discussed in greater detail in Part E of the
3
Building Regulations.[1] Further guidance and illustrations are also available in
Sound Control for Homes[2] and in manufacturers literature for proprietary
materials and systems.

3.1 Roofs Section 1.1, it is a potentially important


The sound insulation of a pitched roof noise source which must be considered at
depends upon the mass of the ceiling and an early point in the roof design to
the roof layers and the presence of a minimise disturbance inside the school.
sound absorbing material in the roof Excessive noise from rain on the roof
space. Mineral wool, used as thermal can occur in spaces (eg sports halls,
insulation in the ceiling void, will also assembly halls) where the roof is made
provide some acoustic absorption, which from profiled metal cladding and there is
will have a small effect on the overall no sealed roof space below the roof to
sound insulation of a roof. A denser attenuate the noise before it radiates into
specification of mineral wool as the space below. With profiled metal
commonly used for acoustic insulation cladding, the two main treatments that
would have a greater effect on the overall should be used in combination to provide
sound insulation of the roof. sufficient resistance to impact sound from
Where it is necessary to ventilate the rain on the roof are:
roof space, it is advisable to make any damping of the profiled metal cladding
necessary improvements to the sound (eg using commercial damping materials)
insulation by increasing the mass of the independent ceilings (eg two sheets of
ceiling layer, which should be airtight. 10 kg/m2 board material such as
Recessed light fittings can make this plasterboard, each supported on its own
difficult and sometimes it is better to frame and isolated from the profiled metal
place the sound insulating material below cladding. Absorptive material, such as
the roof covering and to extend partition mineral fibre, should be included in the
walls up to the roof layer (providing cavity.)
adequate ventilation can be maintained). Profiled metal cladding used without a
damping material and without an
3.1.1 Rain noise independent ceiling is unlikely to provide
The impact noise from rain on the roof sufficient resistance to impact sound from
can significantly increase the indoor noise rain on the roof. A suitable system that
level; in some cases the noise level inside a could be used in schools is shown in
school due to rain can be as high as Figure 3.1. The performance of such a
70 dB(A). system was measured by McLoughlin et
Although rain noise is excluded from al[3].
Figure 3.1: Profiled metal
clad roof incorporating the definition of indoor ambient noise in Prediction models are available to
acoustic damping predict the noise radiated from a single
sheet of material; however, a single sheet
will not provide sufficient attenuation of
Damped aluminium tiles impact noise from rain. Suitable
Plasticised steel top sheet lightweight roof constructions that do
50 100 mm mineral fibre provide sufficient attenuation will consist
Two sheets of Fermacell board of many layers. For these multi-layer roof
50 100 mm mineral fibre constructions, laboratory measured data
Steel liner panel for the entire roof construction is needed.

1
3 Sound insulation

At the time of writing, a new laboratory full mechanical ventilation when external
measurement standard for impact sound noise levels are high but do not exceed
from rain on the roof, ISO 140-18[4], is 70 dB LAeq,30min.
under development. In the future this will The School Premises Regulations[6]
allow comparison of the insulation require that:
provided by different roof, window and "All occupied areas in a school building
glazing elements and calculation of the shall have controllable ventilation at a
sound pressure level in the space below minimum rate of 3 litres of fresh air per
the roof. second for each of the maximum number of
When designing against noise from rain persons the area will accommodate.
on the roof, consideration should also be All teaching accommodation, medical
given to any glazing (eg roof lights) in examination or treatment rooms, sick
the roof. Due to the variety of different rooms, sleeping and living accommodation
roof constructions, advice should be shall also be capable of being ventilated at a
sought from an acoustic consultant who minimum rate of 8 litres of fresh air per
will be able to calculate the sound second for each of the usual number of
pressure level in the space due to typical people in those areas when such areas are
rainfall on the specific roof. occupied."
In the case of the latter densely
3.2 External Walls occupied spaces such as classrooms, 8
For masonry walls, such as a 225 mm litres per second per person is the
solid brick wall, a brick/block cavity wall minimum amount of fresh air that should
or a brick-clad timber frame wall, the be provided by a natural or mechanical
sound insulation performance will ventilation system under normal working
normally be such that the windows, conditions, in order to maintain good
ventilators and, in some cases, the roof indoor air quality.
will dictate the overall sound insulation of In order to satisfy the limits for the
the building envelope. indoor ambient noise levels in Table 1.1,
Timber frame walls with lightweight it is necessary to consider the sound
cladding and other lightweight systems of attenuation of the ventilation openings so
construction normally provide a lower that the building envelope can be
standard of sound insulation at low designed with the appropriate overall
frequencies, where road traffic and aircraft sound insulation. In calculations of overall
often produce high levels of noise. This sound insulation the attenuation assumed
can result in a low airborne sound for the ventilation system should be for
insulation against these noise sources normal operating conditions.
unless the cladding system has sufficient The main choices for the natural
low frequency sound insulation. The ventilation of typical classrooms are
airborne sound insulation can be assessed shown in Figure 3.2. Case Studies 7.8
from laboratory measurements carried out and 7.9 describe the recent application of
according to the method of BS EN ISO two of these design solutions in new
140-3:1995[5]. secondary school buildings.
Additional ventilation such as openable
3.3 Ventilation windows or vents may be required to
The method of ventilation as well as the prevent summertime overheating. Under
type and location of ventilation openings these circumstances an increase in internal
will affect the overall sound insulation of noise levels is expected and the levels in
the building envelope. When external Table 1.1 may be exceeded depending on
noise levels are higher than 60 dB the ventilation strategy.
LAeq,30min , simple natural ventilation
solutions may not be appropriate as the 3.3.1 Ventilators
ventilation openings also let in noise. Passive ventilators normally penetrate the
However, it is possible to use acoustically walls, but in some cases they penetrate the
attenuated natural ventilation rather than window frames (eg trickle ventilators) or

2
Sound insulation 3
POSSIBLE SOUND
INSULATION MEASURES
CROSS-VENTILATION

2.7 m Secondary glazing with


CORRIDOR CLASSROOM
staggered openings
Acoustically treated high
capacity air inlet

SINGLE-SIDED VENTILATION

2.7 m

Secondary glazing with


staggered openings

STACK VENTILATION

Absorbent duct lining


or
Acoustic louvres on outside
plus
2.7 m secondary glazing with
staggered openings
acoustically treated high
capacity air inlet

WIND TOWER/BALANCED
FLUE VENTILATION

Absorbent duct lining


Acoustic louvres on outside
2.7 m Secondary glazing with
staggered openings
Attenuator plenum box
Electronic noise

Figure 3.2: Possible


types of natural ventilation

3
3 Sound insulation

the windows themselves. Often windows insulation with thin glass it is often
are not used as intended as they cause necessary to use two panes separated by
uncomfortable draughts. For this reason, an air (or other gas) filled cavity. In
increased use is being made of purpose theory, the wider the gap between the
designed ventilation systems with or panes, the greater the sound insulation.
without acoustic attenuation. In practice, the width of the cavity in
Many proprietary products are double glazing makes relatively little
designed for the domestic sector and in difference for cavity widths between 6
some cases they do not have large enough mm and 16 mm. Wider cavity widths
openings for classrooms and other large perform significantly better.
rooms found in schools. The acoustic In existing buildings, secondary glazing
performance of any ventilator can be may be installed as an alternative to
assessed with laboratory sound insulation replacing existing single glazing with
test data measured according to BS EN double glazing. The effectiveness of
20140-10:1992[7]. Because of the secondary glazing will be determined by
complexity of the assessment of the the thickness of the glass and the width of
acoustic performance of a ventilator, the air gap between the panes. Another
advice may be needed from a specialist alternative may be to fit a completely new
acoustic consultant. To maintain adequate double-glazed window on the inside of
ventilation, it is essential that the effective the existing window opening, leaving the
area of the ventilator is considered as it original window intact. The use of sound
may be smaller than the free area absorbing reveal linings improves the
(see prEN 13141-1[8]). performance of double-glazed windows,
It is important, particularly in the case but the improvement is mainly in the
of sound-attenuated products, that a good middle to high frequency region, where it
seal is achieved between the penetration has little effect on road traffic and aircraft
through the wall or window and the noise spectra.
ventilator unit. Where through-the-wall To achieve their optimum
products are used, the aperture should be performance, it is essential that the
cut accurately and the gap around the glazing in windows makes an airtight seal
perimeter of the penetrating duct should with its surround, and that opening lights
be packed with sound insulating material have effective seals around the perimeter
prior to application of a continuous, of each frame. Neoprene compression
flexible, airtight seal on both sides. seals will provide a more airtight seal than
In some schools bespoke ventilator brush seals. The framing of the window
designs, such as that shown in Figure 3.3, should also be assembled to achieve an
are needed. For more examples of airtight construction.
ventilator solutions see Case Studies 7.8 It is equally important that an airtight
and 7.9. seal is achieved between the perimeter of
the window frame and the opening into
3.4 External Windows which it is to be fixed. The opening
The airborne sound insulation of should be accurately made to receive the
windows can be assessed from laboratory window, and the perimeter packed with
measurements of the sound reduction sound insulating material prior to
index according to BS EN ISO 140- application of a continuous seal on both
3:1995[5]. When choosing suitable sides.
windows using measured data, care must For partially open single-glazed
be taken to differentiate between windows or double-glazed windows with
measured data for glazing and measured opposite opening panes, the laboratory
data for windows. The reason is that the measured airborne sound insulation is
overall sound insulation performance of a approximately 10-15 dB Rw . This
window is affected by the window frame increases to an Rw of 20-25 dB in the
and the sealing as well as the glazing. open position for a secondary glazing
To achieve the required sound system with partially open ventilation

4
Sound insulation 3

Softwood framing to
extend reveals
Sound-absorbing reveal
Existing inward-opening light, linings to head and sides
movement to be restricted

Second casement openable


for cleaning only
Retrofit secondary glazing producing
a staggered air flow path. Designed
to limit aircraft noise intrusion to
science laboratories at a secondary 300mm nominal
school near London City Airport.
Bottom hung casement,
A sound reduction of approximately openable for ventilation,
20-25 dB Rw was achieved using this fitted with secure adjustable stay
design. 200mm nominal

Existing brickwork wall Supporting framing below cill

openings, with the openings staggered on crucial in achieving the potential Figure 3.3: Secondary
glazing producing a
plan or elevation, and with absorbent performance of the door itself. Effective
staggered air flow path
lining of the window reveals (see Figure seals should be provided at the threshold,
3.3). In situ, the degree of attenuation jambs and head of the door frame. As
provided by an open window also with windows, neoprene compression
depends on the spectrum of the noise and seals are more effective than brush seals,
the geometry of the situation. but their effectiveness will be strongly
The spreadsheet of sound reduction influenced by workmanship on site. Brush
indices on the DfES website seals can however be effective and tend to
(www.teachernet.gov.uk/acoustics) gives be more hard wearing than compression
values of Rw for various types of window, seals.
glazing thickness, and air gap. Indications It is also important that an airtight seal
are also given of the sound reduction is achieved between the perimeter of the
indices of open windows. door frame and the opening into which it
is to be fixed. The opening should be
3.5 External Doors accurately made to receive the door frame
For external doors the airborne sound and any gaps around the perimeter packed
insulation is determined by the door set, with insulating material prior to
which is the combination of door and application of a continuous, airtight seal
frame. The quality of the seal achieved on both sides.
around the perimeter of the door is A high level of airborne sound

5
3 Sound insulation

insulation is difficult to provide using a but is commensurate with the external


single door; however, it can be achieved noise.
by using a lobby with two sets of doors,
as often provided for energy efficiency, or 3.7 Variation of noise incident on
a specialist acoustic doorset. different facades
It may be convenient to determine the
Calculations and tests for external noise level at the most exposed
sound insulation of the building window (or part of the roof) of a
envelope building, and to assume this exposure for
There are two methods by which it is other elements too. This may be suitable
possible to calculate the indoor ambient at the early design stage for large schools.
noise levels due to external noise. However, where external noise levels vary
The first method is to calculate the significantly, this approach can lead to
indoor ambient noise level according to over-specification and unnecessary cost.
the principles of BS EN 12354-3:2000[9].
An Excel spreadsheet to calculate the 3.8 Calculations
sound insulation of building envelopes, A calculation of the internal noise level
based on BS EN 12354-3:2000 is according to BS EN 12354-3:2000 can
available via the DfES website be used to estimate whether, for the levels
(www.teachernet.gov.uk/acoustics). The of external noise at any particular site, a
principles of this calculation spreadsheet proposed construction will achieve the
are given in Appendices 5 and 6 levels in Table 1.1. By estimating the
The second method is to calculate the internal levels for various different
indoor ambient noise level using the constructions, designers can determine
measured faade sound insulation data the most suitable construction in any
from an identical construction at another given situation. BS EN 12354-3:2000
site. allows the effect of both direct and
flanking transmission to be calculated, but
3.6 Subjective characteristics of in many cases it is reasonable to consider
noise only direct transmission.
The indoor ambient noise levels in Table
1.1 provide a reasonable basis for 3.9 Test method
assessment, but some noises have tonal or Field testing of an existing building
intermittent characteristics which make envelope should be conducted according
them particularly noticeable or disturbing, to BS EN ISO 140-5:1998[10], with
even below the specified levels. This is reference to the clarifications given in this
most common with industrial noise. At a section.
minority of sites, achieving the levels in BS EN ISO 140-5:1998 sets out
Table 1.1 will not prevent disturbance various test methods. The three global
from external industrial sources, and tests using the prevailing external noise
additional noise mitigation may be source(s) (road traffic, railway traffic, air
required. In these cases advice from an traffic) are preferable. At most sites road
acoustic consultant should be sought. traffic is likely to be the dominant source
The potentially beneficial masking of noise, and the corresponding
effect of some types of continuous standardised level difference is denoted
broadband external noise (such as road Dtr,2m,nT . Where aircraft noise is the
traffic noise) must also be borne in mind, major concern measurements should be
see Section 2.12. This noise may partially made accordingly, and the standardised
mask other sounds, such as from level difference denoted Dat,2m,nT .
neighbouring classrooms, which may be Similarly the standardised level difference
more disturbing than the external noise. using railway noise as the source is
There are acoustic benefits, as well as cost denoted Drt,2m,nT .
benefits, in ensuring that the level of The global loudspeaker test method
insulation provided is not over-specified (which generates Dls,2m,nT values) may

6
Sound insulation 3
be used only if the prevailing external
noise sources are insufficient to generate
an adequate internal level.
It is reasonable, under certain
conditions as specified below, to use the
test results to indicate the likely airborne sound
performance of building envelopes of a
similar construction, exposed to similar
sources. If the conditions are not met
then it is not reasonable to infer the
performance from existing sound
insulation test results and the calculation
procedure should be used.

impact sound
3.9.1 Conditions for similar
constructions
The following features of any untested
construction should be similar to those of
the tested construction:
type and number of ventilators receiving room via indirect, or 'flanking' Figure 3.4: Sound
paths, see Figure 3.4. transmission paths
glazing specification, frame between adjacent rooms:
construction and area of windows direct sound paths through
type and number of doors 3.10 Specification of the airborne the wall and floor and
external wall construction and area sound insulation between rooms flanking paths through the
roof construction and area. using Rw surrounding ceiling, wall
Table 1.2 describes the minimum and floor junctions
3.9.2 Conditions for similar sources weighted sound level difference between
Only test results in terms of Dtr,2m,nT , rooms in terms of DnT (Tmf,max),w.
Dat,2m,nT , Drt,2m,nT and Dls,2m,nT However, manufacturers provide
values are applicable, and these should information for individual building
not be used interchangeably. The elements based on laboratory airborne
following features concerning the sound insulation data measured according
prevailing sources of noise should be to BS EN ISO 140-3:1995[5], in terms of
similar to those of the previously tested the sound reduction index, Rw. Figure
construction: 3.5 shows the values of Rw for some
relative contributions of road traffic, typical building elements.
railway and aircraft noise This section provides some basic
orientation of the building relative to guidance for the designer on how to use
the main noise source(s) laboratory Rw values to choose a suitable
ground height of the building relative separating wall or floor for the initial
to the main noise source(s) design. However, specialist advice should
always be sought from an acoustic
SOUND INSULATION BETWEEN consultant early on in the design stage to
ROOMS assess whether the combination of the
This section describes constructions separating and flanking walls is likely to
capable of achieving the different levels of achieve the performance standard in Table
sound insulation specified in Tables 1.2 1.2. An acoustic consultant can use
and 1.4. advanced methods of calculation to
Appendix 1 describes how sound predict the sound insulation (eg Statistical
insulation between adjacent rooms is Energy Analysis or BS EN 12354-
measured and calculated. 1:2000[11]). The correct specification of
In addition to the transmission of flanking walls and floors is of high
direct sound through the wall or floor, importance because incorrect specification
additional sound is transmitted into the of flanking details can lead to reductions in

7
3 Sound insulation

100 mm slab
150 mm with resilient
60 staggered stud hangers
6 mm with 12 mm 100 mm slab
glass plasterboard with rigid
55 200 mm hangers
space
50
Average sound reduction index, dB R w

45 225 mm
115 mm brickwork
6 mm
40 glass concrete slab plastered
6 mm 25 mm 10 mm with 50 mm
glass wall board 100 mm breeze screed
35 space
plastered
one side 115 mm
30 12 mm brickwork
12 mm plasterboard plastered
glass with
25 3 mm 50 x 100 studs 100 mm breeze
glass plastered
20 100 mm breeze both sides
unplastered
15 Solid core
timber door
10 Hollow core
panel door
5

0
1 10 20 50 100 200 400
Weight kg/m 2

Figure 3.5: Typical sound


insulation figures for
construction elements, the expected performance of up to 30 dB. S is the surface area of the separating
dB Rw The following procedure can be used element (m2)
to choose an appropriate type of Tmf,max is the maximum value of the
separating wall or floor before seeking reverberation time Tmf for the receiving
specialist advice on appropriate flanking room from Table 1.5 (s)
details. V is the volume of the receiving room
(m3).
1. Determine from Table 1.2 the
b. Estimate the likely reduction in the
required minimum weighted BB93
airborne sound insulation that would
standardised sound level difference
occur in the field, to account for less
between rooms, DnT(Tmf,max),w .
favourable mounting conditions and
workmanship than in the laboratory test.
2. Estimate the required weighted sound
X can be estimated to be 5 dB assuming
reduction index for the separating wall or
that flanking walls and floors are specified
floor.
with the correct junction details.
a. Use the following formula to provide However, if flanking walls and floors are
an initial estimate of the measured not carefully designed then poor detailing
sound reduction index (Rw,est) that can cause the airborne sound insulation to
should be achieved by the separating wall be reduced by up to 30 dB. To allow the
or floor in the laboratory. designer to choose a suitable separating
wall for the initial design it is
Rw,est = recommended that X of 5 dB is assumed
STmf,max and an acoustic consultant is used to
DnT(Tmf,max),w +10 lg ( V
) +8 dB
check the choice of separating element
where DnT(Tmf,max),w is the minimum and ensure that the correct flanking
weighted BB93 standardized level details are specified.
difference between rooms from Table 1.2.

8
Sound insulation 3
c. Calculate the final estimate for the
Figure 3.6: The four main
weighted sound reduction index Rw that flanking transmission paths
should be used to select the separating
wall or floor from laboratory test data:
Rw = Rw,est + X dB
Through the junction
with the external walls
3.10.1 Flanking details
A simplified diagram indicating the main
flanking transmission paths is shown in
Figure 3.6. General guidance on flanking
details for both masonry and framed
constructions can be found in Approved
Through the junction
Document E. Specific guidance on with the internal walls
flanking details for products can also
sometimes be found from manufacturers'
data sheets, or by contacting
manufacturers technical advisers.

3.10.2 Examples of problematic Through the junction


with the ceiling and
flanking details floor slab above
In some buildings it is considered
desirable to lay a floating screed (eg a
sand-cement screed laid upon a resilient
material) across an entire concrete floor
and build lightweight partitions off the Through the junction
screed to form the rooms, see Figure with the floor slab below
3.7(a). This allows the flexibility to
change the room spaces. However, a
continuous floating screed can transmit a
significant quantity of structure-borne difficult for builders to ensure that they
flanking sound from one room to do not leave air paths between the top of
another. the partition wall and the roof.
For example, if a lightweight partition
with 54 dB Rw was built off a continuous 3.10.3 Junctions between ceilings and
floating screed the actual sound insulation internal walls
could be as low as 40 dB Ceilings should be designed in relation to
DnT(Tmf,max),w. In fact, even if a more internal walls to achieve the required
expensive partition with a higher combined performance in respect of
Figure 3.7:
performance of 64 dB Rw was built, the sound insulation, fire compartmentation (a) Flanking transmission
actual sound insulation would still be 40 and support. via floating screed
dB DnT(Tmf,max),w, because the majority In the case of suspended ceiling systems (b) Corrective detailing
of sound is being transmitted via the
screed, which is the dominant flanking
path. This demonstrates the importance (a) (b)
of detailing the junction between the
screed and the lightweight partition. To
reduce the flanking transmission, the
floating screed should stop at the
lightweight partition, see Figure 3.7(b).
Another flanking detail that can cause
problems is where a lightweight profiled
metal roof deck runs across the top of a
separating partition wall. With profiles
such as trapezoidal sections, it is very

9
3 Sound insulation

the preferred relationship is one in which to choose an appropriate type of


partitions or walls pass through the separating floor before seeking specialist
suspended ceiling membrane, do not advice on flanking details from an
require support from the ceiling system, acoustic consultant.
and combine with the structural soffit
above to provide fire resisting 1. Determine the maximum weighted
compartmentation and sound insulation. BB93 standardised impact sound pressure
The alternative relationship in which level, LnT(Tmf,max),w from Table 1.4.
partitions or walls terminate at, or just
above the soffit of a suspended ceiling, is 2. Estimate the required weighted
not recommended as it demands a ceiling normalised impact sound pressure level
performance in respect of fire resistance for the separating floor, as follows:
and sound insulation which is difficult to
a. Use the following formula to provide
achieve and maintain in practice in school
an initial estimate of the weighted
buildings. This is because the number of
normalised impact sound pressure level
fittings required at ceiling level is
(Ln,w,est) that should be achieved by the
incompatible with testing of fire resistance
separating floor in the laboratory:
to BS 476 Fire tests on Buildings and
Structures [12], which is based on a test Ln,w,est =
V
specimen area of ceilings without fittings. LnT(Tmf,max),w + 10 lg 18 dB
Tmf,max
Furthermore, the scale and frequency of
access to engineering services in the where LnT(Tmf,max),w is the maximum
ceiling void through the membrane (in weighted BB93 standardised impact
respect of fire) and through insulation sound pressure level from Table 1.4
backing the membrane (in respect of V is the volume of the receiving room
sound) is incompatible with maintenance (m3)
of these aspects of performance. Tmf,max is the maximum value of the
reverberation time Tmf for the receiving
3.11 Specification of the impact room from Table 1.5 (s).
sound insulation between rooms b. Estimate the likely increase in the
using Ln,w impact sound pressure level that would
Table 1.4 describes the minimum impact occur in the field (ie, account for
sound insulation between rooms in terms favourable mounting conditions and good
of LnT(Tmf,max),w. However, workmanship in the laboratory test), X.
manufacturers usually provide information X can be 5 dB assuming that flanking
for floors based on laboratory impact walls are specified with the correct
sound insulation data measured according junction details. However, if flanking
to BS EN ISO 140-6:1998[13], in terms walls are not carefully designed the impact
of Ln,w. sound pressure level can increase by up to
This section provides some basic 10 dB. To allow the designer to choose a
guidance for the designer on how to use suitable separating floor for the initial
laboratory Ln,w values to design a suitable design it is suggested that an X of 5 dB is
separating floor. However, specialist assumed and an acoustic consultant is
advice should always be sought from an used to check the choice of separating
acoustic consultant early on in the design floor and ensure that the correct flanking
process to assess whether the combination details are specified.
of the separating floor and flanking walls
is likely to achieve the performance c. Calculate the final estimate for the
standard in Table 1.4. An acoustic weighted normalised impact sound
consultant can use advanced methods of pressure level Ln,w that should be used to
calculation to predict the sound insulation select the separating wall or floor from
(eg, Statistical Energy Analysis or BS EN laboratory test data.
12354-2:2000[14]). Ln,w = Ln,w,est X dB
The following procedure can be used

10
Sound insulation 3
3.12 Internal walls and partitions leaves, with performance increasing with
the width of the air gap between the
3.12.1 General principles leaves and the physical separation of the
Figure 3.5 shows typical values of the leaves. (Note that for double-leaf
sound reduction index (Rw) for different plasterboard constructions, timber
wall constructions. For comparison the studwork is rarely used to achieve high
performance of other constructions standards of sound insulation because
including doors, glazing and floors is lightweight metal studs provide better
included. mechanical isolation between the leaves.)
The solid line shows the theoretical At low frequencies the performance of
value based purely on the mass law. For plasterboard partitions is limited by the
single leaf elements (eg walls, single mass and stiffness of the partition.
glazing, doors, etc) the mass law states Therefore, masonry walls can provide
that doubling the mass of the element better low frequency sound insulation
will give an increase of 5 to 6 dB in Rw . simply because of their mass. This is not
When constructions provide less sound obvious from the Rw figures, as the Rw
insulation than predicted by the mass law rating system lends more importance to
it is usually because they are not airtight. insulation at medium and high
In general, lightweight double-leaf frequencies rather than low frequencies.
constructions such as double glazing, This is not normally a problem in general
cavity masonry or double-leaf classroom applications where sound
plasterboard partitions provide better insulation is mainly required at speech Figure 3.8: Chart for
sound insulation than the mass law would frequencies. However, it can be important estimating transmission
loss (TL) for a composite
indicate. At medium and high in music rooms and in other cases where
wall consisting of 2
frequencies, double-leaf constructions low frequency sound insulation is elements of differing
benefit from the separation of the two important. transmission losses

15.0
The percentage of the total area of the wall occupied
14.0 by the element with the lower transmission loss, eg a
Area 5% door, and the difference between the higher TL and
13.0
the lower TL, are used to calculate the correction in
12.0
dB which is added to the lower TL to give the TL of
11.0 the whole wall.
10%
10.0 For example: Assume a classroom to corridor wall has
9.0 an Rw of 45 dB and a door in the wall has an Rw of 30
Correction, dB

dB. If the area of the door is 0.85 m x 2.1 m =


8.0
1.785 m2 and the area of the wall is 7 m x 2.7 m =
20%
7.0 18.9 m2, then the percentage of the wall occupied by
the door is 1.785/18.9 x 100 = 9.4%
6.0
30%
5.0 The difference in TLs = 15 dB.
40%
4.0 Therefore reading from the chart gives a correction of
50% about 9 dB to be added to the lower TL, giving a
3.0
60% composite TL of 39 dB.
2.0
If a higher performance door of say 35 dB had been
1.0
used, the composite TL would be 35 + 7 = 42 dB.
0.0
2 6 10 14 18 22 26 30
Transmission loss difference, dB

11
3 Sound insulation

A combination of masonry and dry- reduction indices spreadsheet included on


lining can be very effective in providing the DfES website
reasonable low frequency performance www.teachernet.gov.uk/acoustics.
linked with high sound insulation at
higher frequencies. This combination is 3.12.3 Flanking transmission
often useful when increasing the sound In general, a weighted sound level
insulation of existing masonry walls. difference of up to 50 dB Dw can be
While partition walls may be provided achieved between adjacent rooms by a
as a means of achieving sound reduction, single partition wall using one of the
it should be remembered that sound constructions described above, provided
insulation is no better than that provided that there are no doors, windows or other
by the weakest element. weaknesses in that partition wall, and
Figure 3.8 can be used to assess the flanking walls/floors with their junction
overall effect of a composite construction details are carefully designed. Flanking
such as a partition with a window, door, transmission is critical in determining the
hole or gap in it. The sound insulation of actual performance and specialist advice
the composite structure is obtained by should be sought from an acoustic
relating the areas and sound insulation consultant.
values of the component parts using the
graph. 3.12.4 High performance
Partitions should be well sealed, as constructions flanking transmission
small gaps, holes, etc. significantly reduce High-performance plasterboard partitions
sound insulation. (Note that this applies or masonry walls with independent linings
to porous materials, eg porous blockwork, can provide airborne sound insulation as
which can transmit a significant amount high as 70 dB Rw in the laboratory.
of sound energy through the pores.) However, to achieve high performance in
practice (ie above 50 dB Dw), flanking
3.12.2 Sound insulation of common walls/floors with their junction details
constructions must be carefully designed. Airborne
Figure 3.9 shows the approximate sound insulation as high as 65 dB Dw can
weighted sound reduction index Rw for be achieved on site using high
masonry and plasterboard constructions. performance plasterboard partitions, or
Using the procedures given in Section masonry walls with independent linings
3.10, it is possible to determine which with lightweight isolated floors and
constructions are capable of meeting the independent ceilings to control flanking
requirements between different types of transmission. This will require specialist
rooms. advice from an acoustic consultant.
The values in Figure 3.9 are necessarily For rooms which would otherwise
approximate and will depend on the need high-performance partitions it may
precise constructions and materials used. be possible to use circulation spaces,
Many blockwork and plasterboard stores and other less noise-sensitive rooms
manufacturers provide data for specific to act as buffer zones between rooms
constructions. When using manufacturers such that partitions with lower levels of
data it should always be ascertained that sound insulation can be used. Case Study
the data is tested to the standards given in 7.4 (see also Figure 2.4) describes a
Section 1, and details of the precise purpose built music suite which uses
construction used should be sought. For buffer zones effectively. In some cases,
example, in masonry constructions, the such as the refurbishment of music
thickness and density of plaster and facilities in existing buildings, room
rendering have a significant effect. layout may not allow this, and in these
Some more specific sound reduction cases high levels of sound insulation
indices, both single value and octave band between adjacent rooms will be required.
data, and further references to specific
manufacturers data are in the sound

12
Sound insulation 3
Figure 3.9: Walls - sound
reduction index for some
typical wall constructions

Performance Rw Walls - typical forms of construction

1x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a metal


stud (total width 75 mm)

75 mm block (low density 52 kg/m2)


plastered/rendered 12 mm one side

4045 1x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a 48 mm


metal stud with glass fibre/mineral wool in
cavity (total width 75 mm)

100 mm block (low density 70 kg/m2) fair faced

4550 2x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a 70 mm


metal stud (total width 122 mm)

112 mm fair faced brick (unplastered)

100 mm block (medium density 140 kg/m2)


plastered/rendered 12 mm both sides

5055 2x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a 150 mm


metal stud with glass fibre/mineral wool in
cavity (total width 198 mm)

224 mm fair faced brick (unplastered)

150 mm block (high density 315 kg/m2)


plastered/rendered 12 mm both sides

5560 2x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a staggered


60 mm metal stud with glass fibre/mineral wool in
cavity (total width 178 mm)

336 mm fair faced brick (unplastered)

13
3 Sound insulation

Figure 3.10: Glazing - sound reduction index for some typical glazing constructions

Performance Rw (+/ 3 dB) Glazing - typical forms of construction

25 4 mm single float (sealed)

28 6 mm single float (sealed)

4/12/4: 4 mm glass/12 mm air gap/4 mm glass

30 6/12/6: 6 mm glass/12 mm air gap/6 mm glass

10 mm single float (sealed)

33 12 mm single float (sealed)

8/12/16: 8 mm glass/12 mm air gap/16 mm glass

35 10 mm laminated single float (sealed)

4/12/10: 4 mm glass/12 mm air gap/10 mm glass

38 6/12/10: 6 mm glass/12 mm air gap/10 mm glass

12 mm laminated single float (sealed)

40 10/12/6 lam: 10 mm glass/12 mm air gap/6 mm laminated glass

19 mm laminated single float (sealed)

10/50/6: 10 mm glass/50 mm air gap/6 mm glass

43 10/100/6: 10 mm glass/100 mm air gap/6 mm glass

12 lam/12/10: 12 mm laminated glass/12 mm


air gap/10 mm glass

45 6 lam/200/10: 6 mm laminated glass/200 mm


air gap/10 mm + absorptive reveals

17 lam/12/10: 17 mm laminated glass/12 mm


air gap/10 mm glass

14
Sound insulation 3
3.12.5 Corridor walls and doors The mass of a door is not the only
The Rw values in Table 1.3 should be variable that ensures good sound
used to specify wall (including any insulation. Good sealing around the frame
glazing) and door constructions between is crucial. Air gaps should be minimised
corridors or stairwells and other spaces. by providing continuous grounds to the
To ensure that the door achieves its frame which are fully sealed to the
potential in terms of its airborne sound masonry opening. There should be a
insulation, it must have good perimeter generous frame rebate and a proper edge
sealing, including the threshold where seal all around the door leaf. Acoustic
practical. seals can eliminate gaps between the door
Note that a lightweight fire door will and the door frame to ensure that the
usually give lower sound insulation than a door achieves its potential in terms of its
heavier, sealed acoustic door. airborne sound insulation.
Greatly improved sound insulation will As a rule of thumb, even a good
be obtained by having a lobby door quality acoustically sealed door in a 55 dB
arrangement between corridors or Rw wall between two classrooms will
stairwells and other spaces. However, this reduce the Rw of the wall so that the
is not often practicable between classrooms DnT(Tmf,max),w is only 30-35 dB. Two
and corridors. Some noise transmission such doors, separated by a door lobby, are
from corridors into classrooms is necessary to maintain the sound
inevitable, but this may not be important insulation of the wall. Figure 3.12 shows
if all lesson changes occur simultaneously. the effect of different doors on the overall
For some types of room, such as music sound insulation of different types of wall.
rooms, studios and halls for music and In a conventional layout with access to
drama performance, lobby doors should classrooms from a corridor, the corridor
generally be used. acts as a lobby between the two classroom
doors.
3.13 Internal doors, glazing, windows
and folding partitions 3.13.2 Lobbies
Internal doors, glazing and windows are Some more specific sound reduction
normally the weakest part of any indices, both single value and octave band
separating wall. Figures 3.10 and 3.11 data, and further references to specific
show the performance of a number of manufacturers data are in the sound
different types of door and window. In reduction indices spreadsheet included on
general, rooms which require at least 35 the DfES website
dB Dw should not have doors or single www.teachernet.gov.uk/acoustics. The
glazing in the separating wall or partition. greater the distance between the doors,
the better the sound insulation,
3.13.1 Doors particularly at low frequencies. Maximum
The choice of appropriate doors with benefit from a lobby is associated with
good door seals is critical to maintaining offset door openings as shown in
effective sound reduction, and controlling Figure 3.13(a) and acoustically absorbent
the transfer of sound between spaces. wall and/or ceiling finishes.
Internal doors are often of lightweight A lobby is useful between a
hollow core construction, providing only performance space and a busy entrance
around 15 dB Rw which is about 30 dB hall. Where limitations of space preclude a
less than for a typical masonry wall (see lobby, a double door in a single wall will
Figure 3.5). The sound insulation of an be more effective than a single door; this
existing door can be improved by configuration is illustrated in Figure
increasing its mass (eg by adding two 3.13(b).
layers of 9 mm plywood or steel facings) Inter-connecting doors between two
as long as the frame and hinges can music spaces should be avoided and a
support the additional weight. However, lobby used to provide the necessary
it is often simpler to fit a new door. airborne sound insulation.

15
3 Sound insulation

Acoustic performance Typical construction


30 dB Rw This acoustic performance can be achieved by a well fitted
solid core doorset where the door is sealed effectively
around its perimeter in a substantial frame with an effective
stop. A 30 minute fire doorset (FD30) can be suitable.

Timber FD30 doors often have particle cores or laminated


softwood cores with a mass per unit area 27 kg/m2 and a
thickness of 44 mm.

Frames for FD30 doors often have a 90 mm x 40 mm


section with a stop of at least 15 mm.
44 mm
Compression or wipe seals should be used around the doors
perimeter along with a threshold seal beneath. A drop-down
44 mm thick timber door, half hour fire rated or wipe type threshold seal is suitable.

Doors incorporating 900 mm x 175 mm vision panels


comprising 7 mm fire resistant glass can meet this acoustic
performance.

35 dB Rw This acoustic performance can be achieved by specialist


doorsets although it can also be achieved by a well fitted
FD60 fire doorset where the door is sealed effectively
around its perimeter in a substantial frame with an effective
stop.

Timber FD60 doors often have particle core or laminated


softwood cores with a mass per unit area 29 kg/m2 and a
thickness of 54 mm. Using a core material with greater
density than particle or laminated softwood can result in a
door thickness of 44 mm.

54 mm Frames for FD60 doors can have a 90 mm x 40 mm section


with stops of at least 15 mm.

Compression or wipe seals should be used around the doors


54 mm thick timber door, one hour fire rated perimeter along with a threshold seal beneath. A drop-down
or wipe type threshold seal is suitable.

Doors incorporating 900 mm x 175 mm vision panels


comprising 7 mm fire resistant glass can meet this
performance.

NOTES ON FIGURE 3.11 Figure 3.11: Doors -


sound reduction index for
1. Care should be taken to ensure that the force required to open doors used in schools is not some typical door
excessive for children. To minimise opening forces, doors should be fitted correctly and good construtions
quality hinges and latches used. Door closers should be selected with care.
2. The opening force at the handles of doors used by children aged 512 should not exceed 45 N.
3. Manufacturers should be asked to provide test data to enable the specification of door-sets.
4. Gaps between door frames and the walls in which they are fixed should be 10 mm.
5. Gaps between door frames and the walls in which they are fixed should be filled to the full
depth of the wall with ram-packed mineral wool and sealed on both sides of the wall with a non-
hardening sealant.
6. Seals on doors should be regularly inspected and replaced when worn.

16
Sound insulation 3
Sound insulation of wall 11
with door (dB) Double doors, ie, one door either side
of a lobby (the diagonal straight line
50 illustrates how the insulation value of
the original partition can only be
maintained at 100% by incorporating a
'very good'
set of double doors with a lobby)
40
Heavy door with edge seal
'good'
Light door with edge seal
30
Any door (gaps round edges)
'poor'

20 30 40 50 Sound insulation of wall


without door (dB)
eg 100 mm: stud work with plasterboard
and skin both sides (no insulation)

eg 300 kg/m2 150 mm 'high' density


blockwork, plastered at least one side

eg 225 mm common brick 2 plastered


both sides

Figure 3.12: Reduction


of sound insulation of a
3.13.3 Folding walls and operable insulation of around 20 dB Rw it is
wall incorporating different
partitions common for noise from the kitchen to types of door
Folding walls and operable partitions disturb the teaching activities. One 1 For mean sound
are sometimes used to provide flexibility solution is to provide doors in front of insulation values for various
in teaching spaces or to divide open plan the shutters to improve the sound partition/door
combinations refer to
areas. A standard folding partition with insulation.
Figure 3.8.
no acoustic seals or detailing may provide 2 Values in examples given
a value as low as 25 dB Rw . However, are for illustative purposes
folding partitions of very high acoustic only, ie, they are not
quality are available; these can provide up absolute.
to 55 dB Rw but as well as being costly
these are very heavy (typically 55-65
kg/m2) and, unless electrically operated,
are time-consuming to open and close.
The sound insulation depends on effective
acoustic sealing and deteriorates if seals or
tracks are worn or damaged.
Folding partitions are useful in many
applications but they should only be used
when necessary and not as a response to a
non-specific desire for flexibility in layout (a)
of teaching areas.

3.13.4 Roller shutters


Roller shutters are sometimes used to
Figure 3.13: Use of
separate kitchens from multi-purpose lobbies and double doors
spaces used for dining. Because roller (a) Lobbied doorway
shutters typically only provide sound (b) (b) Double door

17
3 Sound insulation

Figure 3.14: Existing timber floors - sound reduction index for some typical floor/ceiling constructions

Option Construction - timber floors Rw Lnw depth


mm

1 Basic timber floor consisting of 15 mm floorboards 3540 8085 180


on 150-200 mm wooden joists, plaster or 230
plasterboard ceiling fixed to joists

2 As 1, ceiling consisting of one layer of 15 mm 5055 6570 220


plasterboard and one layer of 12.5 mm dense 270
plasterboard fixed to proprietary resilient bars on
underside of joists

3 As 1, ceiling retained, with suspended ceiling 5560 6065 450


consisting of 2 layers of 15 mm wallboard or 2 500
layers of 12.5 mm dense plasterboard, suspended
on a proprietary metal ceiling system to give
240 mm cavity containing 80-100 mm lightweight
mineral wool (>10 kg/m3)

4 As 1, ceiling removed, with suspended ceiling 5560 6065 450


consisting of 2 layers of 15 mm wallboard or 2 500
layers of 12.5 mm dense plasterboard, suspended
on a proprietary metal ceiling system to give
275 mm cavity containing 80-100 mm lightweight
mineral wool (>10 kg/m3)

5 As 1, ceiling removed, with suspended ceiling


consisting of 2 layers of 15 mm wallboard or 2 6065 5560 450
layers of 12.5 mm dense plasterboard, suspended 500
special resilient hangers to give 275 mm cavity
containing 80-100 mm lightweight mineral wool
(>10 kg/m3)

6 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor using


resilient pads or strips (eg 15 mm tongue-and-
groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood, 5055 6065 270
chipboard or fibre-bond board supported on 320
45 mm softwood battens laid on 25 mm thick
open-cell foam pads). 80-100 mm lightweight
mineral wool (>10 kg/m3) laid on top of existing
floorboards

7 As 1, floorboards removed and replaced with 5560 5560 240


15 mm tongue-and-groove floorboards on a 15 mm 290
plywood, chipboard or fibre-bond board supported
on 12 mm softwood battens laid on 25 mm thick
open-cell foam pads bonded to the joists,
80-100 mm lighweight mineral wool (>10 kg/m3)
laid on top of existing ceiling

18
Sound insulation 3
Option Construction - timber floors Rw Lnw depth
mm
8 As 7 but mineral wool replaced by 100 mm 5560 5055 240
pugging of mass 80 kg/m2 on lining laid on top of 290
ceiling

9 As 8 but with 75 mm pugging laid on top of board 5055 5560 240


fixed to sides of joists 290

10 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 5055 5560 220


using a continuous layer (eg 15 mm tongue-and- 270
groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 6-12 mm thick
continuous open-cell foam mat)

11 As 10, ceiling removed and replaced with 6065 5055 360


suspended ceiling consisting of 2 layers of 15 mm 410
wallboard or 2 layers of 12.5 mm dense
plasterboard, suspended on a proprietary metal
ceiling system to give 275 mm cavity containing
80-100 mm lightweight mineral wool (>10 kg/m3)

NOTES ON FIGURE 3.14 Figure 3.14 Continued


1. Where resilient floor materials are used, the material must be selected to provide the
necessary sound insulation under the full range of loadings likely to be encountered in that room
and must not become over-compressed, break down or suffer from long-term creep under the
higher loads likely to be encountered. Where large ranges of loading are encountered, or where
there are high point loads such as pianos, heavy furniture or operable partitions, the pad stiffness
may have to be varied across the floor to take account of these.
2. All figures are approximate guidelines and will vary between different products and
constructions. Manufacturers' data should be obtained for all proprietary systems and
constructions. These must be installed in accordance with good practice and manufacturers'
recommendations and all gaps sealed.

3.14 Floors and ceilings multi-storey buildings with wooden


Sound transmission between vertically floors, such as traditional Victorian school
adjacent rooms occurs through: buildings. Both airborne noise and impact
airborne noise where the sound power noise can be problematic with wooden
is input into the room and is transmitted floors, and both problems need to be
through the separating floor and its considered when dealing with vertically
associated flanking constructions. adjacent spaces. Adding carpets or other
impact noise where the structural soft coverings to wooden floors reduces
power is input into the floor (eg through impact noise but has very little effect on
footfalls, chairs scraping, etc) and is airborne noise.
transmitted through the separating floor Impact noise can also be a problem
and its associated flanking constructions. with concrete floors (although airborne
Vertical noise transmission between noise may not be a problem); this can
classrooms can be a problem in older sometimes be solved by adding a carpet.

19
3 Sound insulation

Option Construction - lightweight concrete floors Rw Lnw depth


mm

1 Lightweight floor consisting of concrete planks 3540 9095 100


(solid or hollow) or beam and blocks, with 30-50 150
mm screed, overall weight approximately
100 kg/m2, no ceiling or floor covering

2 As 1 with soft floor covering >5 mm thick 3540 7585 105


155

3 As 1 with suspended ceiling consisting of 2 layers 6065 5560 370


of 15 mm wallboard or 2 layers of 12.5 mm 420
dense plasterboard, suspended on a proprietary
metal ceiling system to give 240 mm cavity
containing 80-100 mm lightweight mineral wool
(>10 kg/m3)

4 As 3 with soft floor covering >5 mm thick 6065 5055 375


425

5 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 5060 5060 155


using resilient pads or strips (eg 15 mm tongue- 205
and-groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 25 mm thick
open-cell foam pads)

6 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 5055 5560 150


using a continuous layer (eg 15 mm tongue-and- 200
groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 6-12 mm thick
continuous open-cell foam mat)

7 As 1 with heavyweight proprietary suspended 4555 6070 250


sound insulating ceiling tile system 500

Figure 3.15: Lightweight 3.14.1 Impact sound insulation In general, impact noise should be
concrete floors - sound Impact noise on floors may arise from: reduced at source through use of soft
reduction index of some floor coverings or floating floors.
typical constructions foot traffic, particularly in corridors at
break times/lesson changeover Planning and room layout can be used
percussion rooms to avoid impact noise sources on floors
areas for dance or movement above noise-sensitive rooms. Soft floor
loading/unloading areas (eg in coverings and floating floor constructions
kitchens and workshops) and independent ceilings are the most
machinery. effective means of isolation, and resilient

20
Sound insulation 3
Option Construction - heavyweight concrete floors Rw Lnw depth
mm

1 Solid concrete floor consisting of reinforced 5055 6065 150


concrete with or without shuttering, concrete 200
beams with infill blocks and screed, hollow or
solid concrete planks with screed, of thickness
and density to give a total mass of at least 365
kg/m2, with soft floor covering >5 mm thick

2 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 5560 5055 200


using resilient pads or strips (eg 15 mm tongue- 250
and-groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 25 mm thick
open-cell foam pads)

3 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 5560 5060 175


using a continuous layer (eg 15 mm tongue-and- 230
groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 6-12 mm thick
continuous open-cell foam mat)

4 As 1 with suspended ceiling consisting of 2 layers 6070 5560 420


of 15 mm wallboard or 2 layers of 12.5 mm 470
dense plasterboard, suspended on a proprietary
metal ceiling system to give 240 mm cavity
containing 80-100 mm lightweight mineral wool
(>10 kg/m3)

5 As 4 with soft floor covering >5 mm thick 6070 5055 425


475

NOTES ON FIGURES 3.15 AND 3.16 Figure 3.16: Heavyweight


1. Where "soft floor covering" is referred to this should be either a resilient material, or material concrete floors - sound
with a resilient base, with an overall uncompressed thickness of at least 4.5 mm ; or any floor reduction index of some
covering with a weighted reduction in impact sound pressure level of not less than 17 dB when typical constructions
measured in accordance with BS EN ISO 140-8:1998[15] and calculated in accordance with BS
EN ISO 717-2:1997[16].
2. Where resilient floor materials are used, the material must be selected to provide the
necessary sound insulation under the full range of loadings likely to be encountered in that room
and must not become over-compressed, break down or suffer from long-term creep under the
higher loads likely to be encountered. Where large ranges of loading are encountered, or where
there are high point loads such as pianos, heavy furniture or operable partitions, the pad stiffness
may have to be varied across the floor to take account of these.
3. All figures are approximate guidelines and will vary between different products and
constructions. Manufacturers' data should be obtained for all proprietary systems and
constructions. These must be installed in accordance with good practice and manufacturers'
recommendations and all gaps sealed.

21
3 Sound insulation

floor finishes are also appropriate for variety of configurations. The performance
some sources. for both airborne and impact sound
Typical airborne and impact noise improves with the depth of the ceiling
performance are listed for a number of void, with the mass of the ceiling and
constructions in Figures 3.14, 3.15 and with the deflection of the ceiling hangers
3.16. Note that, unlike airborne sound under the mass of the ceiling. Adding a
insulation, impact sound insulation is layer of lightweight acoustically absorbent
measured in terms of an absolute sound glass wool or mineral wool in the ceiling
level, so that a lower figure indicates a void increases the sound insulation,
better standard of insulation. (See typically by 2-3 dB, but there is no point
Appendix 1 for a more detailed explanation in adding more than specified.
of airborne and impact sound insulation.) Performance on site is strongly
dependent on good workmanship to
3.14.2 Voids above suspended avoid air gaps, so careful attention should
ceilings be given to ensuring that joints are close-
Where partitions run up to the underside butted, taped and filled and that all gaps
of lightweight suspended ceilings, the are properly sealed. At the perimeter a
airborne sound insulation will be limited small gap should be left between the
by flanking transmission across the ceiling plasterboard and the walls, and this
void, which will often prevent the should be sealed using non-setting mastic
minimum values for airborne sound to allow a small amount of movement
insulation in Table 1.2 being achieved. without cracking.
Therefore, partitions should either be Penetrations through the ceiling need
continued through the ceiling up to the to be properly detailed to maintain an
soffit, or a plenum barrier should be used. airtight seal while allowing movement,
and services should not be allowed to
3.14.3 Upgrading existing wooden provide a rigid link between the ceiling
floors using suspended plasterboard and the floor above. This can be a
ceilings particular problem with sprinkler pipes. A
Figure 3.14 shows the airborne and problem with these constructions is that
impact noise performance of a standard recessed light fittings, grilles and diffusers
wooden floor with various forms of significantly reduce the sound insulation
suspended plasterboard ceiling. so any services should be surface-
Option 2 is possibly the most widely mounted.
used system of increasing both impact The plasterboard finish is acoustically
and airborne sound insulation, with or reflective whereas in some rooms an
without the original plaster ceiling. In acoustically absorbent ceiling is required,
small rooms good results can be achieved to meet the specifications for room
using timber studs fixed only to the walls, acoustics and reverberation times. One
but large timber sections are needed to solution to this, if there is sufficient
span wider rooms. height, is to suspend a separate
In wider span rooms it is generally lightweight sound absorbing ceiling under
more convenient to suspend the the sound insulating plasterboard ceiling.
plasterboard from the floor joists above, This can be a standard lightweight
fixing through the existing ceiling if this is composite or perforated metal tile system.
retained, using a proprietary suspension These lightweight, acoustically absorbent,
and grid system (option 4). The grid can ceilings add very little to the sound
be hung from simple metal strips or, for insulation but do provide acoustic
higher performance, special flexible absorption. Lights and services can be
ceiling hangers. recessed in the absorbent ceiling.
The major manufacturers of dry-lining The term acoustic ceiling generally
systems all provide their own systems for refers to lightweight acoustically
these options, and provide sound absorbent ceiling tile systems, designed to
insulation data and specifications for a provide acoustic absorption. Note that

22
Sound insulation 3
these systems do not always increase the Figure 3.14 shows a number of typical
sound insulation as well. lightweight floating floor constructions
There are, however, some systems and indicative sound insulation figures.
which use relatively heavy ceiling tiles There are many proprietary systems using
which are designed to fit into ceiling grids a wide range of isolating materials and
to provide a reasonably airtight fit. These manufacturers should supply test data in
may consist of dense plasterboard or accordance with ISO 140 measurements.
mineral fibre products, or perforated The isolating layer will typically consist
metal tiles with metal or plasterboard of rubber, neoprene, open-cell or closed-
backing plates. If properly installed and cell foams, mineral fibre or composite
maintained these can provide a useful materials. The isolating layer can be in the
increase in sound insulation as well as form of individual pads, strips or a
acoustic absorption. Manufacturers of continuous layer of material.
these systems can provide both airborne The sound insulation increases with the
and impact sound insulation figures, as deflection of the resilient layer (up to the
well as acoustic absorption coefficients. If limit of elasticity for the material), with
no measured sound insulation data are the mass of the floating layer and with the
provided, it is better to err on the side of depth of the cavity. Adding a layer of
caution and assume that the tile will not lightweight acoustically absorbent glass
provide a significant increase in sound wool or mineral wool in the ceiling void
insulation. increases the sound insulation, typically by
The sound insulation performance 2-3 dB, but there is no point in adding
figures quoted in Figure 3.14 all assume more than specified. In each case the
that the floorboards are in good deflection of the material under the
condition and reasonably airtight, with permanent dead load of the floating
thin carpet laid on top. If retaining the layer and the varying live loads of
original floorboards it is good practice to occupants and furniture must be
fill in any gaps with glued wooden strips, considered. If the material is too resilient
caulking or mastic, or to lay hardboard on and the floating layer is insufficiently
top, to provide an airtight seal. If not heavy or rigid, the floor will deflect under
retaining the original boards, 18 mm the varying loads as people move about
tongue-and-grooved chipboard can be the room. For this reason it is
used to achieve the same effect, with all advantageous for the floating layer to be
joints and gaps properly sealed, especially as heavy and as stiff as practicable, in
at the perimeters. some cases using ply or fibre-bond board
(for mass) laid on top of the resilient
3.14.4 Upgrading existing wooden layer, with tongue-and-grooved chipboard
floors using platform and ribbed floors on top of this.
The systems discussed in Section 3.14.3 If there are likely to be very heavy local
all maintain the original wooden floor loads in the room (eg pianos) it may be
mounted directly on joists. This has the necessary to increase the stiffness of the
advantage of maintaining the original resilient material, or, in the case of pads,
floor level at the expense of loss of ceiling to space the pads more closely together to
height below. An alternative approach is support these loads.
to provide a floating floor system either Junctions with walls and at doors need
on top of the existing floorboards (a to be designed to maintain an effectively
platform floor) or to remove the existing airtight seal while allowing movement of
floorboards and build a new floor on the floating layer. Manufacturers generally
resilient material placed on top of the provide their own proprietary solutions
floor joists (a ribbed floor). In both cases for this, with or without skirtings.
the increase in both airborne and sound Lightweight floating floors are quite
insulation relies on the mechanical specialist constructions, and achieving the
isolation of the floor from the joists using correct deflection under varying live loads
resilient material. without overloading the resilient material

23
3 Sound insulation

partitions should normally extend


Figure 3.17: Possible up to the soffit
sound transmission paths
and their prevention
all
connections walls must be of
for plant and adequate weight airborne sound transmited through ceiling,
machinery and all gaps sealed light fittings, and lightweight partitions and gaps
plantroom should be can be dealt with by sealing gaps and increasing mass
should have flexible
flexible
mountings,
adequate
floor mass impact sound and to a lesser degree,
and elasticity, airborne sound, can be transmitted along the structure
or floating
floor

ceiling below plant may need


to be isolated from floor all gaps for
above and from ductwork as ducts and pipes airborne sound transmitted
suspended ceiling can be in walls and floor through ductwork
a good amplifier for should be well sealed
structure borne noise
created by badly isolated
plant

can be difficult. Most materials suffer and without suspended ceilings and
from long term loss of elasticity or creep floating floors.
under permanent loads and this should be
taken into account in the design and 3.15 Design and detailing of
selection of materials. The system building elements
manufacturer should normally be Important points to remember when
provided with all of the relevant designing constructions to achieve
information and required to specify a adequate sound insulation are:
system to meet all of the acoustic and Weak elements (eg doors and glazing,
structural requirements over the expected service penetrations, etc) will reduce the
lifetime of the floor. In difficult cases the effectiveness of the walls in which they are
advice of an acoustics consultant and/or located.
structural engineer should be sought. Impact sound will travel with little
reduction through a continuous member
3.14.5 Concrete floors such as a steel beam or servicing pipe.
In general concrete floors provide much Partitions between sensitive spaces
greater airborne sound insulation than should normally continue beyond the
wooden floors by virtue of their greater ceiling up to the structural soffit or roof
mass. There are, however, considerable layer, to prevent noise passing over the
variations in performance between dense top of the partition above the ceiling or
poured concrete floors and comparatively through a loft space.
lightweight precast concrete plank floors. Openings in walls caused by essential
Impact sound transmission can be a services passing through should be
problem even in heavy concrete floors acoustically sealed. Pipework passing
because of the lack of damping in between noise sensitive spaces should be
concrete, and a soft or resilient floor appropriately boxed-in (see Approved
covering is generally required. This may Document E[1]).
simply be carpet on suitable underlay. Figure 3.17 shows how possible
Figures 3.15 and 3.16 show typical transmission paths through the structure
airborne sound insulation and impact of a building can be prevented.
sound transmission for a number of
typical concrete floor constructions, with

24
Sound insulation 3
References
[1] Approved Document E - Resistance to the [9] BS EN 12354-3:2000 Building Acoustics -
passage of sound. Published by the Stationery Estimation of acoustic performance in buildings
Office, 2002 ISBN 001 753 6433 from the performance of elements. Part 3.
Airborne sound insulation against outdoor
[2] Sound Control for Homes (BRE report 238, sound.
CIRIA report 127 available from CRC Ltd),
BRE & CIRIA, 1993 [10] BS EN ISO 140-5: 1998 Measurement of
BRE ISBN 0 85125 559 0 sound insulation in buildings and of building
CIRIA ISBN 0 86017 362 3 elements. Part 5. Field measurements of
CIRIA ISBN 0305 408 X airborne sound insulation of faade elements
and facades.
[3] J. McLoughlin, D.J. Saunders, R.D. Ford.
Noise generated by simulated rainfall on [11] BS EN 123541:2000 Building Acoustics.
profiled steel roof structures. Applied Acoustics Estimating of acoustic performance in building
42 (1994) 239-255 from the performance of elements. Part 1.
Airborne sound insulation between rooms.
[4] ISO 140-18 Acoustics Measurement of
sound insulation in buildings and of building [12] BS 476 Fire tests on building materials
elements - Part 18: Laboratory measurement and structures.
of sound generated by rainfall on building
elements, forthcoming standard. [13] BS EN ISO 140-6: 1998, Acoustics -
Measurement of sound insulation in buildings
[5] BS EN ISO 140-3: 1995 Measurement of and of building elements. Part 6. Laboratory
sound insulation in buildings and of building measurement of impact sound insulation of
elements. Part 3. Laboratory measurement of floors.
airborne sound insulation of building elements.
[14] BS EN 12354-2: 2000 Building Acoustics.
[6] The Education (School Premises) Estimating of acoustic performance in building
Regulations 1999. (Statutory Instrument 1999 from the performance of elements. Part 2.
No 2, EDUCATION, ENGLAND & WALES ). The Impact sound insulation between rooms.
Stationery Offiice, 1999. ISBN 0 11 080331 0
3.00 and on website [15] BS EN ISO 140-8: 1998 Acoustics.
www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/si/si1999/19990 Measurements of sound insulation in buildings
002.htm and of building elements. Part 8. Laboratory
measurements of the reduction of transmitted
[7] BS EN 20140-10: 1992 Acoustics, impact noise by floor coverings on a
Measurement of sound insulation in buildings heavyweight standard floor.
and of building elements. Part 10. Laboratory
measurement of airborne sound insulation of [16] BS EN ISO 717-2: 1997 Acoustics - Rating
small building elements. of sound insulation in buildings and of building
elements. Part 2. Impact sound insulation.
[8] BS 98/704582 DC. Ventilation for
buildings. Performance testing of
components/products for
residential ventilation. Part 1. Externally and
internally mounted air transfer devices. Draft
for Public Comment (prEN 13141-1 Current
Euronorm under approval).

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