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How loud is too loud?

Continued exposure to noise above 85 dBA (adjusted decibels) over time will cause hearing loss. The volume (dBA) and the length of exposure to the sound will tell you how harmful the noise is.

In general, the louder the noise, the less time required before hearing loss will occur.

Sound Intensity

Sound intensity is measured in Decibels (dB). This is a logarithmic scale in which an increase of 10 dB gives an apparent doubling of loudness.

Sound pitch is measured in Hertz (Hz), the standard unit for the measurement for frequency. The audible range of sound for humans is typically from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, although, through ageing and exposure to loud sounds the upper limit will generally decrease.

Sound Insulation

Two parameters are used to describe the sound insulation of a partition, Dw and Rw. Dw represents the sound insulation between rooms on-site. Since these figures describe the fnal site requirements, Dw levels are specified by clients and Building Regulations. Rw represents the lab tested sound insulation of an element making up a partition wall/floor type. Due to flanking and other factors, lab rated sound reduction levels will not be achieved on-site. Conventionally, there is a 5 to 10 dB reduction between a Rw lab tested figure and an on-site Dw figure. The conversion between Dw and Rw is relatively complex and takes into consideration receiver room volume, receiver room reverberation times and the area of the separating partition. The conversion between Rw and Dw should always be calculated.

Sound Transmissions

Sound transmission paths can be interrupted by sound insulation and by blocking air paths. The sound insulation of a single leaf of a material is governed by its mass, stiffening and damping.

The sound insulation across a good conventional, lightweight, office to office construction is typically in the order of 45 dB Dw. This means that if the sound level in the source room is around 65 dB, (a typical level for speech) the sound level in the adjacent room, the receiver room, will be approximately 20 dB (barely audible). If sound levels are increased in the source room however, to 75 dB (raised voice), sound levels within the adjacent room will also increase to around 30 dB (audible). Sound insulation therefore describes the level of sound lost across a partition and not the level of sound within an adjacent room.

Dw represents the sound insulation between rooms on-site. Rw represents the lab tested sound insulation of an element making up a partition wall/floor type. Standards achieved in labs may not be possible on site because of the quality of workmanship and due to sound ‘flanking’ acoustic elements, that is, travelling around them through an easier path, rather than only directly through them as under lab conditions.

The building regulations part E sets minimum standards for design and construction in relation to the resistance to the passage of sound.

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E2 Consultants Delivering compliance solutions for Architects & Developers    Head Office E2 HOUSE, South Park Way, Wakefield 41 Business Park, WF2 0XJ    Questions? Call: 0800 043 8100

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