Whether Evaluating Sound Insulation of Partition Walls Between Two Dwellings Can be Considered Simple or Indeed Difficult

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In the following essay I will discuss reasons why I believe evaluating sound insulation of partition walls between two dwellings can be considered simple or indeed difficult. For extra clarity, I will describe a dwelling as a self-contained unit of accommodation used by one or more households as a home, such as a house, apartment or other 'substantial' structure; for extra reference and ease in comparisons I will also link other instances in which the same techniques and thought processes may be taken into account, such as in other residential, commercial or even educational structures. Adequate sound insulation in houses was always and still is a factor which is often overlooked, unlike other necessities, such as fire safety, thermal insulation or even general aesthetics and natural light access. However, now in the 21st Century I believe that sound insulation is something that needs to be considered more often.

Firstly, to understand how sound insulation works, we must be able to comprehend the basic laws of sound and how it is transferred. Sound is a wave that vibrates to produce frequencies audible by our ears. Vibrations can pass through different mediums, and there is no exception when it comes to sound. Water, solids and gases are all vulnerable to such vibrations, and thus in construction we must use whatever materials possible to minimise or amplify this sound transfer depending on the building in question. For two dwellings therefore (semi-detached house) we’d want good sound insulation to isolate the sound of one half of the house, however, on the other side of the spectrum we have a gym hall, where sound insulation is not necessary as the teams playing sports need to be able to communicate effectively, and rather than using materials which absorb sounds, a material which reflects would be more suitable. Therefore, it is vital that we must outline certain circumstances when evaluating sound insulation to determine whether it is a simple process as the more variables there are, the more difficult this process will be. Flanking transmissions, coincidence effect, noise satisfaction and even the materials used all play a massive role in determining the ease of the process in question.

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The argument that evaluating sound insulation of party walls is a simple process can be backed up with several key arguments. Initially, before any construction has begun, we must analyse what the space is going to be utilised for. In this case a dwelling will provide a location for almost all day-to-day activities of a family that are usually demanded to be in private, meaning adequate sound insulation designs must be considered. Although this can be considered a trivial process it must be done. In other instances, for example a school, the same techniques can be employed between classrooms for an attempt to limit noise transmitting through classrooms and disorientating the students or even being a simple annoyance. Once this has been established, the appropriate materials must also be selected. Timber, concrete, and metals are used, and all of these have different transmission capabilities, much like with heat. Metal for example will conduct heat more easily and same goes with sound vibrations. Within most if not all walls of a dwelling in question there will be insulation. Insulation also has many properties, and not just to thermally insulate. Thermal, fire and in this case, sound is all something forms of insulation can be used for. It is known that loosely packed fibres within the insulating material provide excellent sound absorption. Standard fiberglass insulation is as effective as mineral wool, and much less costly and Knauf offer great insulation for this purpose [1]. On the contrary, foams give great thermal insulation but are poor for soundproofing, but these would usually be used on the outer wall of a building to fill voids rather than for party walls between two dwellings. Thus, it is safe to assume insulation is a simple way to improve the acoustic performance of a party wall between two dwellings.

Besides the insulation of the wall, we also need to focus on the actual shell that forms the wall itself. Most houses now are built with drywall, and these boards of gypsum can also have sound absorbing or indeed reflecting properties. Sound panels like this offer enhanced levels of sound performance and a greater density, making it ideal for residential applications. The greater density helps with sound absorption as it creates a bigger medium for the vibrations to have to pass through [Figure 1]. Picking these materials can be a simple process, as the sound transmission of most if not all insulating materials is recorded within their data sheets, so that potential buyers and designers can effectively plan an area to fit the area’s needs. As sound is measured in decibels (dB), materials are rated on the level of absorption depending on frequency (Hz) of sound occurring and how much passes the object. As expected, the higher the frequency the more sound will pass through the material, and the more that does indeed pass through, the worse the material is at insulating a dwelling acoustically. Similarly, the level of sound frequencies that are reflected are also recorded to ease with the design phase [2]. These are all shown on relevant data sheets or can be requested from the manufacturer. These data sheet or manufacturers guidelines can be easily compared to the building regulations within the country to meet the acoustic requirements of the specified building. Therefore, it can be easily said that evaluating the sound insulation of a partition wall between two dwellings is a simple process.

To further amplify the possibility of evaluating the sound insulation of a partition wall between two dwellings being a simple process, there are many aesthetic choices within the actual dwelling that can be employed to increase the effectiveness of a party wall acoustically. As stated previously, sound reflects off surfaces until it is fully absorbed. Therefore, the more objects are introduced within the space the easier it is for the sound to dissipate. A simple process of introducing curtains into the room will help capture some of the sound reflecting into the party wall. As well as this, carpets, and even general furniture such as sofas or tables will help with this process. Hard floored surfaces allow sound to bounce off them, creating excess echo and then reverberation (prolongation of a sound resonance). Carpeting, however, absorbs sound rather than reflecting it. In addition, large, plush rugs can help decrease these unwanted effects and even placing thick blankets or pillows around a room can also help to absorb some of this extra noise. Essentially, the thicker the material in the room whether for aesthetics or not, it will most likely serve as an effective sound absorber. Therefore, again we can conclude that this is another reason as to why the evaluation of sound insulation in a dwellings party wall can be considered simple.

In contrast, there can be many arguments made to support the possibility that evaluating the sound insulation of a partition wall between two dwellings is a difficult process. Firstly, we must discuss the issue of it now being the 21st Century. Although this means that sound proofing techniques are more effective it also means that there is a rise in the power of sound emitting objects such as speakers or vehicles. These new and more powerful sound sources can hit more frequencies creating a bigger challenge to insulate this sound. In addition, due to an increase in the population in most if not all residential areas there is also a rise in the overall noise awareness of individuals. In many cities, it can be considered that people live all around you; above, below and to all sides, and sound vibrations are pretty much the only form of privacy breech there is that would lead to residential dissatisfaction. Scott Sommerfeldt, an engineer at Brigham Young University who specializes in acoustic noise mitigation stated “I think, as a society, we are becoming much more aware of the noise around us. Excessive noise has detrimental health effects on us, and we’re finally realizing how those effects add up.” [3] Thus, for these reasons, more so than ever in construction history has the evaluation of sound insulation of a partition wall between two dwellings been more difficult.

Furthermore, there are several factors which extend beyond specification and cannot be generalised or grouped like the materials being used. A very specific and variable effect known as a flanking transmission can greatly increase the difficulty of evaluating the sound insulation of two dwellings. Flanking transmission in essence describes the sound that passes around, over the top or under the primary partition separating two spaces in this case the party wall. Flanking sound transmission can be especially bothersome in multi-family residential buildings, as it is often accountable to over 50% of transmittable sounds from the opposing dwellings. In cases where there is no party wall, then this form of transmission will account for 100% of the sounds being transferred like in detached housing. As there are many ways in which this sound can be transferred it is hard to map out even the most obvious ways of sound travel. An effective prediction method for flanking transmission has been made in the European standard EN 12354-1 [4], however, this only really applies for large construction projects, and does not necessarily meet the demands of constructing smaller residential properties like a semi-detached house. Thus, this remains largely a grey area. To make matters worse, the residents may decide to make alterations to their home such as installing a new window or a secondary door for their garden. This will therefore void any design choices that were made in order to mitigate such an issue in the first place. Overall therefore, creating so many variables and difficulties in prediction, it is safe to assume that due to the issue of flanking transmission, evaluating the sound insulation of a party wall between two dwellings can be considered a difficult process.

Finally, there is another factor that can be difficult to predict when evaluating the sound insulation of a party wall between two dwellings. The coincidence effect refers to the phenomenon that occurs when the wavelength of the sound already airborne is the same as the bending waves in the partition wall. Fundamentally, at a certain frequency and angle that the sound wave hits the wall (angle of incidence), the bending oscillation of the partition will be amplified, and the acoustic energy will be transmitted through the wall with minimal if any loss in energy; knows as the ‘coincidence dip’ [5]. This dip is something that can be prevented but at the cost of higher spending on sound insulation, and it will worsen the acoustic performance of the room in which the sound is being resonated from in the first place. Thus, again due to an extenuating factor which is the coincidence effect, the simplicity of evaluation the sound insulation between two dwellings’ party walls has been nerfed.

To conclude, I whole heartedly disagree with the statement that evaluating the sound insulation of a partition wall between two dwellings is a simple process. Although we do have many factors before the construction phase as well as during which will ease the process of having an acoustically satisfactory environment for residential purposes, it is without a doubt that there are many factors, especially in todays society which we cannot predict. Luckily however, the construction of housing is taking acoustics into consideration much more than before, and this can be seen by the sheer amount of acoustic materials now available, and the amount of work there has been added to make all forms of construction more acoustically adequate. The issues of flanking sounds and the coincidence effect need to be harnessed and understood with the maximum amount of accuracy in order to maximise the satisfaction of residents in their dwellings.

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Whether Evaluating Sound Insulation of Partition Walls Between Two Dwellings Can be Considered Simple or Indeed Difficult. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/whether-evaluating-sound-insulation-of-partition-walls-between-two-dwellings-can-be-considered-simple-or-indeed-difficult/
“Whether Evaluating Sound Insulation of Partition Walls Between Two Dwellings Can be Considered Simple or Indeed Difficult.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/whether-evaluating-sound-insulation-of-partition-walls-between-two-dwellings-can-be-considered-simple-or-indeed-difficult/
Whether Evaluating Sound Insulation of Partition Walls Between Two Dwellings Can be Considered Simple or Indeed Difficult. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/whether-evaluating-sound-insulation-of-partition-walls-between-two-dwellings-can-be-considered-simple-or-indeed-difficult/> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Whether Evaluating Sound Insulation of Partition Walls Between Two Dwellings Can be Considered Simple or Indeed Difficult [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/whether-evaluating-sound-insulation-of-partition-walls-between-two-dwellings-can-be-considered-simple-or-indeed-difficult/
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