Shouting up about noise control glazing

Featured Article
11 Apr 2019

As Featured in GGP Magazine - 03/19

With noise pollution continuing to rise, Phil Brown, European regulatory marketing manager at Pilkington United Kingdom Limited, part of the NSG Group, discusses the latest trends in using glazing for sound attenuation.  

The world in which we live is getting noisier. In January, it was reported that the development of new supersonic planes could see Heathrow alone hosting more than 300 extra flights every day that exceed noise pollution limits. 

The news was hardly music to the ears of residents near Heathrow. But the story is just one of many headlines suggesting that a bit of peace and quiet is increasingly hard to find. 

As noise pollution rises, so does an opportunity for the glass and glazing sector, which is equipped with solutions like acoustic glass that can help building occupants block out the outside world. So where can our solutions make the biggest difference to the negative impact that noise pollution has on our health, and what’s happening at regulatory and legislative level to encourage uptake?

Missed opportunity

For prospective homeowners or tenants, it isn’t necessarily clear how well a property is insulated against sound at the point of viewing a home. There have been efforts to boost this transparency, however they may have fallen short of creating real impact.

At the end of 2018, ISO/DIS 19488 a new International standard proposing the introduction of sound classifications for homes, like we currently have for energy performance, was rejected. The result was disappointing for the glass and glazing sector, as it may have wiped out an opportunity to supply more acoustic laminated glass for new-build and refurbishment projects. The standard could have carried the power to encourage property owners and developers, particularly those near sources of noise pollution, to improve buildings’ sound insulation in an effort to attract prospective buyers or tenants.

However, the standard has been proposed as a voluntary technical specification. As such, it may still have an impact, but not as great as it may have been as a full International Standard. 

Specifying to curb the health impact

While formal standards may fall short of encouraging uptake, growing awareness of the impact noise has on our health may be enough to drive homeowners and facilities managers to upgrade their windows.

According to the World Health Organisation, frequent exposure to noise can have cardiovascular effects, lead to poorer work or school performance and cause hearing impairment, too. Its research says that 30% of the population in EU countries is exposed to noise levels exceeding 55dB(A) at night, when less than 40dB(A) is required to prevent adverse health effects. 

Our range of products are suitable for even the noisiest environments, including homes under flight paths. Taking air travel as just one example, it’s true that the growing volume of aircraft taking to the skies is boosting noise pollution levels – despite technology advances reducing noise per individual flight. The latest data shows that the number of Europeans affected by air travel-related noise pollution has grown by 14% since 2014.

Specifying the right solution

Whether insulating against air travel, road traffic or noisy neighbours, there are some other important considerations for specifiers when choosing the right noise control solution.

To maximise acoustic performance, the general rules to follow include making the glass panes as thick as possible, using laminated glass and, in a double-glazing unit, installing glass of different thicknesses to offset resonance effects. Sound insulation can be enhanced by specifying an acoustic laminated glass such as Pilkington Optiphon™. However, vacuum insulating glass units like Pilkington Spacia™ can also offer higher levels of acoustic performance than single glazing or ordinary domestic double glazing.

The most common way that the sound insulation of glass is quantified is ‘weighted sound reduction’ Rw, which takes into account a correction for human hearing.  However, as urban road traffic is dominated by low-frequency noise, it is more relevant to consider acoustic performance in terms of ‘Rw + Ctr’  – the latter being the spectrum adaptation term applied to the Rw value to account for frequencies typical of urban traffic noise. The larger the value of Rw + Ctr, the less the airborne noise will be transmitted through the glass – our Pilkington Optiphon™ products achieve Rw + Ctr values in the range 32 to 47 dB.

Peace and quiet

Pilkington Optiphon™ is also the only acoustic laminated glass to be accredited by Quiet Mark, the international approval award programme associated with the UK Noise Abatement Society. This means it’s been identified as a solution to overcoming every day noise pollution. Initiatives like Quiet Mark are also helping to boost consumer confidence in noise control solutions.

Ultimately, people expect the buildings where they live and work to protect them against harm from the environment, and noise pollution is emerging as an important factor in this. The onus is on the glass and glazing industry to be vocal about how the right glass can reduce its damaging effect.