The Pollution We Rarely Talk About: Rethinking Noise and Its Impact

We’ve all been there; living in that apartment with thin walls where you can hear all your neighbor’s conversations, working in that office where the HVAC sounds like a V8 automotive engine, or staying in that high rise hotel where the traffic on the street below seems so close you think it’s driving right by the foot of your bed.

Sound is an issue every builder must confront and manage, because the collateral impact of noise pollution extends well beyond mere inconvenience. Particularly in bustling urban areas, the effects of noise pollution have been linked to: stress, sleep disorders, hearing loss, illness and a myriad of other very serious health issues. Considering that more than 60% of the world’s population lives in urban centers, it’s no wonder that an increased focus has been placed on mitigating and controlling noise pollution in both private and public spaces.

One of the keys to managing the residual effects of noise begins at the construction phase; as builders, heavy emphasis on acoustics when choosing building materials can have a tremendously positive impact on the wellness and quality of life of the inhabitants of your buildings.

Here are some reasons you should always build with noise control in mind:

You could actually save a life
Using as a sample the heavily urban populations of Western Europe, the World Health Organization estimates that: “traffic related noise accounts for over 1 million healthy years of life lost annually to ill health, disability or early death in the western countries in the WHO European Region.” The densely populated cities of the United States such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and dozens of others are not immune to the negative effects of daily noise either. Although it may sound dramatic, such statistics indicates that improved acoustics in buildings and management of noise exposure can protect the health of citizens and actually help extend lives.

People will pay for peace and quiet
From a builder or contractor perspective, one of the benefits of building with better acoustic materials is that it adds to the intrinsic value of the property in the eyes of the owner. Just like energy efficiency, great lighting, attractive layouts and other attributes that entice potential buyers, a building that is in a loud area yet somewhat repels noise pollution will be deemed valuable and favorably considered by most customers.

Now that we understand the health risks, we are demanding more noise control in public space
Federal and local government are doing their part to help limit noise pollution and provide reasonable levels of quiet, even in busy urban areas. Some of the steps being taken to achieve this include ordinances prohibiting sound above a certain threshold near properties, rules excluding the use of noisy construction equipment, tools, lawn equipment etc. at certain hours of the day such as evening and night hours, and regulating the amount of noise produced by different forms of mass transportation. All of these regulations are proactive improvements spawned by increased public awareness of the negative effects of noise pollution.



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