What lockdown has taught us about acoustic well-being
Loud conference calls, arguing children, home schooling, noisy TVs next door, barking dogs, shouting neighbours and the constant beep-beep of home delivery vans and scooters…
Lockdown life has taught us plenty of valuable lessons about the importance of our acoustic well-being.
“The world outside may seem quieter, but the internal noise of my apartment is so much more distracting because I am here all the time,” says Maro Puljizević who lives in a residential block in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
"For example, the gym in my building has closed but the people who live upstairs have taken up online exercise classes. Before I could just hear their footsteps, but now their burpees and jumping jacks resonate throughout the entire apartment.
“I’m also more aware than ever of other neighbours’ television habits and music choices as well as being conscious of mechanical noise from the lift system, air-conditioning and water heating pipes.
“And another thing, at the moment my home is fairly empty, so whenever I have a conference call, I find myself shouting to overcome the echo.”
Demand for home sound insulation solutions is soaring
Maro, like millions of other people who are spending more time than ever before at home, is planning to improve his acoustics. As Knauf Insulation’s Core R&D Department Project Manager for Acoustics he is ideally qualified for the job with extensive experience of the latest cutting-edge Mineral Wool and soundboard solutions.
“In the past year demand for Knauf Insulation’s home acoustic solutions has been unprecedented because more and more people want to introduce better sound insulation to improve their health and well-being at home,” he says.
“Under normal pre-COVID-19 conditions we would sleep while other sleep and most of us would leave our homes during the day, now we are acutely aware of everyone around us 24/7.
“Another issue is that everyone is at home together, working, schooling and watching noisy screens while learning to live with noise from domestic appliances from washing machines to microwaves.”
Counting the cost of noise pollution
The impact of continuous noise pollution on our health and well-being is well documented. Research by the World Health Organisation found that on average it costs Europe €40 billion every year in terms of lost workdays, healthcare, hospital allocation, decreased productivity and learning challenges.
The same research concluded that long-term exposure to excessive noise was estimated to cause 12,000 premature deaths and contribute to 48,000 new cases of ischaemic heart disease every year.
In addition, 22 million Europeans suffer chronic ‘high annoyance’ ranging from irritation to distress and 6.5 million endure significant sleep disturbance all of which can trigger issues with cardiovascular health, alertness and productivity.
Noise reduces productivity by 66%
In one UK survey, excessive noise in open plan offices was found to reduce productivity by 66%, while in classrooms the average classroom noise level was 72 decibels — almost vacuum cleaner level. How noise has affected us at home during the pandemic has yet to be assessed.
Whatever happens in a post-pandemic world, Maro recommends taking a systematic approach focusing on three areas — external, internal and mechanical noise — for the good of our acoustic health.
“Internally it is not enough to fix plasterboard to a wall and hope for the best. Rigid material stuck to a rigid wall will actually amplify noise,” he says.
“It is better to use a combination of solutions — for example, Knauf plasterboard or Heraklith Wood Wool board combined with our Mineral Wool or wall lining systems that have been perfected with Knauf — and fine tune them for optimum acoustic performance.
“A decrease of 10 decibels is easily achieved and that will make a life-changing difference. You will not be able to hear conversation or shouting next door and unable to distinguish the Netflix series they are watching.”
Customised sound insulation
The fibre structure of Knauf Insulation Mineral Wool is highly effective at absorbing sound and it is available in a variety of different thicknesses and densities.
“Successful acoustic performance depends on the softness, elasticity and resilience of the products used and we can combine different types and fine-tune their parameters and the way they interact with our plasterboard or Wood Wool boards to ensure maximum performance,” says Maro.
In addition to exceptional noise management, our systems and solutions offer outstanding energy-saving performance as well as A1 fire safety.
Clean air systems that are quietly efficient
“Another key aspect of the pandemic has been the importance of regularly refreshed air and that means either opening windows — bringing in external noise — or running air-conditioning constantly which can impact our acoustic well-being if the system is not insulated,” says Maro.
Air conditioning systems that are not insulated often act like a trumpet, amplifying noise through a maze of metal pipework.
“We offer HVAC insulation solutions that are fire-resistant and help prevent bacterial growth in ducts, but equally importantly they reduce mechanical noise due to outstanding sound absorption qualities.”
If the past year has taught us the importance of acoustic health, we have also learnt that there is no need to accept buildings that are bad for us.
“High level sound insulation is no longer something that is just restricted to hotels, cinemas or theatres it is now coming to our homes. And that is great news. We all deserve a quiet life,” says Maro.
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