News & Views
22 Oct 2021

Acoustic considerations for micro-apartments:
Why new urban living solutions require acoustics expertise

Despite the pandemic, research by Savills has estimated that the total value of property in London has risen to £1.8 trillion. Given the difficulties in satisfying demand for accommodation in prime locations, different urban living solutions are required. One concept that has gained momentum in recent years is the micro-apartment. Here, KP Acoustics addresses the acoustic considerations that architects and property developers should be aware of.

 

The world’s cities have become prohibitively expensive places to live. The situation has given rise to a mixture of different living solutions, including micro-apartments. In London last year, a studio flat in Pimlico that was a mere 74 square feet went on the market for £225,000. That works out at £3,378 per square foot!

 

As the name suggests, micro-apartments are significantly smaller than your average studio flat. These single-occupant apartments combine all the same amenities you would find in a traditional studio flat into a much smaller footprint. There will often be additional communal spaces to offset the drawbacks of such a small living environment.

 

These small footprint apartments have cropped up in many of the world’s most expensive cities, from Hong Kong to Manhattan. For builders and developers, the attraction is that these apartments often command higher renting prices on a cost per square foot basis, even if the overall price is lower than traditional flats.

 

Architects often look for novel and stylish storage solutions to make micro-apartments both practical and aesthetically appealing. Yet while this might make the apartment look like an attractive space to live in, there is always more than meets the eye. Acoustic considerations shouldn’t be overlooked.

Addressing acoustics at the design stage

It is often more difficult to address noise problems after buildings have already been designed and built. Architects and developers should therefore consider acoustics at the earliest possible stage, to prevent higher costs and disruptions further on.

 

Vibration travels through a building’s structure and translated as audible noise, so-called structure-borne noise.  In many situations where an occupant of a flat is complaining about noise or vibration, there is not an easy fix that can be applied retrospectively. Where construction is required, this is very difficult if someone is already living in the apartment.

 

Of course, this is often less practical when dealing with buildings that are being repurposed. Let’s say a building that was originally an office block is being converted into a series of micro-apartments with a communal bar and gymnasium in the same building. Because the building was not originally designed for this purpose, noise and vibration problems are more likely to occur.

 

Unfortunately for many developers, the type of scenario described above is perhaps more likely than a situation where architects have the luxury of designing a series of apartments from scratch.  There simply isn’t space for many newbuilds in our most popular cities.

 

Furthermore, acoustic considerations are heightened in these environments due to the surrounding sources of noise. In micro-apartments, you need to limit wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling transmission of noise, particularly if the building is housing noisier communal areas. You also need to specify the correct glazing to help keep out noises from surrounding traffic and nightlife.

 

It is important to identify the likely source of vibration and tailor the solution accordingly. In London for example, vibration caused by the underground may be problematic if you are trying to convert a basement into a new apartment. The solution to this problem would be quite different to a solution prescribed for isolating the vibration caused by weight drops in a gym, for example.

 

In micro-apartments, with potentially more surfaces crammed into a small footprint, the possibility for the transmission of vibration may be compounded, depending on the dimensions of the room and contact with the surrounding structure.

 

The pandemic may have reshaped the housing market in unpredictable ways. Unusually for a recession, we have seen a rise in house prices. As demand for property in prime urban spaces looks set to continue, novel architectural solutions such as micro-apartments will be explored. It’s essential that acoustic considerations are factored into these solutions. Having an acoustic consultant onboard at the earliest possible stage can help architects and property developers save costs and create spaces that not only look practical, but sound practical too.

 

So, what do you think the future of urban living will look like? Discover more about our architectural acoustic design services or our sound insulation investigations.

Are you looking for an acoustics consultancy who understands urban living solutions? Contact KP Acoustics on +44(0)208 222 8778.

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