Acoustic wellbeing plays a vital role in realising and consolidating the purpose of a space, however, it is all too often overlooked when planning new developments. So, how can acoustic experts at KP Acoustics Group help planners to factor in acoustic wellbeing in order to create spaces that curb the negative effects of harmful noise on physical and mental health? Here, Emily Norman, Business Development Manager explores the fundamentals of acoustic wellbeing, how sound can impact our health and why acoustic design that promotes wellbeing is a vital part of successful project planning.
The fundamentals of acoustic wellbeing
Sound is intrinsically linked to a person’s wellbeing, with harmful noise provoking an emotional response and building pressure against your eardrum. This can trigger a whole host of negative health implications such as stress and anxiety by promoting the release of cortisol and adrenaline hormones, which causes our bodies to initiate a range of physical and psychological responses that cannot be ignored.
Humans can perceive noise in ten-octave bands, compared to one-octave band of light, making us more sensitive to invasive sound. And, on top of this, our brain’s auditory responses never switch off, making a noisy workplace or poorly sound-proofed bedroom impossible for us to adapt to.
From sleep disruption to cognitive impairment and social isolation, harmful noise in our daily lives is more dangerous than you may first assume. All of the above factors mean acoustic soundscapes that factor in wellbeing should be a top priority when planning and building spaces for the future.
Challenges to factoring acoustic wellbeing into project planning
From hospitals and schools to homes, shared living, public parks and more, acoustics are a vital consideration to help ensure any space serves its intended purpose by creating the desired acoustic signature. However, if overlooked, developers and planners face long-winded planning applications or hefty unplanned costs, as rectifying and redesigning the soundscape of a space becomes expensive, lengthy and near-impossible to achieve.
There are also a number of Government and Local Authority regulations surrounding acoustics and the built environment that must be considered for a variety of development projects, including:
- Building Regulations – Part E: Resistance to the passage of sound – setting regulations related to sound insulation.
- Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) 24: Planning and Noise – providing insight into the need for noise assessments on development sites.
- British Standard 8233:2014 – Sound insulation and noise reduction for buildings – providing guidance on noise reduction within building design.
- Environmental Health Guidance for Environmental Protection Officers – setting regulations on environmental noise and noise pollution.
- The Noise Policy Statement for England – offering guidance on local authority management of noise.
With so many elements for planners to consider from the beginning of a project through to final completion, acoustics should be kept at the forefront of project operations. Here, onboarding a specialised acoustic consultancy to guide you through acoustic regulations can not only help your project meet authority standards, but will also work to create a bespoke space that betters the wellbeing of those within it. Below, we outline how different spaces across our built environment require specific acoustic wellbeing considerations.
When faced with planning the development of student accommodation, shared living and HMO properties, the creation of functional spaces that complement a wide range of personality types and behavioural needs is crucial. Post-pandemic, there has been an increased focus on the need to balance opportunities for socialisation, providing students and young professionals with a chance to connect with each other, whilst also allowing access to spaces where they can relax, focus, or find solitude in a calm environment that caters to their varying needs.
Here, acoustic considerations are a key tool for segmenting private and communal spaces within shared living accommodation, ensuring that such developments are adequately soundproofed and soundscaped to promote mental and physical wellbeing for all tenants. Within the planning strategies of a project such as this, acoustic consultants are able to factor in the demands of differing personality types, conflicting schedules, part-time work and a myriad of other social factors – developing acoustics solutions that allow tenants to live in harmony despite a variety of needs and routines that form their working and social lives.
New build development sites
When it comes to large-scale new build development sites, both at infill brownfield field sites in urban settings and greenfield expansions, housing developers and planners often look to phase these projects in blocks. Often to keep a continuous flow of cash filtering into such large-scale, lengthy projects, developers will look to sell new build properties on-site whilst also continuing the construction of surrounding housing.
Here, excessive and harmful noise from site traffic and ongoing construction can hugely impact the mental and physical health of new residents who have now found themselves living within a busy construction site. To help safeguard the wellbeing of new residents and protect them from persistent and prolonged exposure to harmful noise, acoustic methods can be used to measure, monitor and mitigate environmental noise levels, helping to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. From consistent noise monitoring of ongoing works to effective sound insulation, acoustic considerations play a crucial role in the successful planning of a project from design through to final completion and impact on the end user.
Gardens and parklands
Outside of the built environment, acoustic design plays an important role in the planning and development of populated urban gardens and parks – projects which are often heavily regulated by local authorities to ensure noise control. More often than not, these spaces are built to provide a peaceful and recreational environment for visitors. However, excessive noise from nearby traffic or other sources can seriously affect their functionality, and poor acoustic conditions can make it difficult for people to relax or remove themselves from busy inner-city life.
The inadequate acoustic design of such open spaces can all too easily result in sound pollution, encouraging these spaces to be used for anti-social uses, which can have negative impacts on the wellbeing of nearby residents. This makes the careful planning and management of acoustics in urban gardens and park developments essential to ensuring that they meet their intended aim and contribute positively to the health and wellbeing of the surrounding community.
Acoustics considerations and architectural acoustic design are also intrinsically linked to the health and wellbeing of those within healthcare settings. Controlling the physical characteristics of sound and creating a healthy acoustic equilibrium will elevate the quality of care inpatients receive and positively impact their progression, recovery and level of comfort.
In hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, considered acoustics can help reduce noise levels and create a calming environment, which can improve patient outcomes and overall wellbeing. If acoustic design isn’t considered in the planning stages, rectifying and reconfiguring the acoustic design of healthcare facilities becomes expensive and incredibly lengthy in such a technical environment with a high demand for care.
The importance of early engagement
No matter the nature of your project, early engagement with acoustics specialists allows planners to identify considerations for acoustic wellbeing, mitigate potential noise issues that pose a risk to both physical and mental health, ensure compliance with government and local authority regulations, and save costs by cutting out the need for rectification further down the line.
From noise impact assessments and liaising with local authorities to recommending appropriate noise mitigation measures and creating bespoke acoustics environments that work to promote the wellbeing of the communities they serve, acoustic consultants are an important cog within project planning – and early engagement is key to repairing the benefits that acoustic consultants offer.
KP Acoustics is a full-spectrum acoustics consultancy. Get in touch with an experienced consultant by calling 020 3820 5564 or visiting kpacoustics.com.