Design Options for Sound Reduction: An Architect’s Guide to Soundproofing

Posted by on Sep 2, 2017 in Architecture | Comments Off on Design Options for Sound Reduction: An Architect’s Guide to Soundproofing

Noise can interfere with conversation, rest and sleep and cause stress, headaches, and fatigue. Surveys show that noise is an important environmental concern for most Americans. Sound reduction is necessary for places like hospitals, auditoriums, workplaces, theaters, and schools.

Let’s face it: who among us doesn’t want some peace? You need to reduce and contain noise to protect yourself from sources of noise to enjoy a healthy life. Thoughtful practices and designs can lessen the impact of noise in our lives and improve the quality of our living environment.

Types of Noise

There are two types of noise: impact and airborne.

  1. Impact

Impact noise is produced when part of the building fabric is indirectly or directly affected. Energy passes through the structure and creates noise in nearby rooms. Examples are scraping furniture, plumbing noises, heavy footsteps, vibrations and loud music.

  1. Airborne noise

Airborne noise originates from common sound sources like radios, voices, and TVs. Quarters with lots of hard surfaces can be very noisy as they quickly reflect sound. Rugs, drapes, and soft furnishings can make a big improvement.

5 Major Sources of Noise Pollution: Understanding Noise Pollution

Noise can come from many places. Let’s see a few major sources:

  1. Industrial noise

Noise produced by industries is called industrial noise. It creates very serious large-scale noise problems; significantly affecting surrounding people as well as working people. Usually, it’s produced, at every stage in the industry by hammering, welding, sheet metal works, drilling, lathe machine work, running machinery, operation of cranes, motors, riveting, packing, compressing, transporting, etc.

  1. Road traffic noise

For most Americans road noise is the most important neighborhood noise issue as it affects a high proportion of the population, and the problem is growing as the traffic levels increase. Recent studies indicated that twenty percent of United States population was exposed to levels of road traffic noise that were well above those recommended by the world health organization.

  1. Social events

Noise is at its peak in most of the social events. Parties, places of worship, discos and other social events also create a lot of noise for the people living in that area. People normally flout rules set by the local administration and create nuisance in the area.

  1. Transportation noise

Underground trains, Airplanes flying over houses, a large number of vehicles on roads produce heavy noise, and people struggle to cope with them. The high noise leads to situations where a normal person loses the ability to hear properly.

  1. Neighborhood noise

This includes noise disturbance that may be present in the home, and in public places of entertainment or the open air, but excludes road traffic, aircraft, and industrial noise. This kind of noise impinges upon domestic life, and some of its main sources are loud radios and TV sets, domestic animals, motorcycles, children playing, etc.

Design Options for Noise Reduction

Site planning

It’s important to take into account noise sources such as hotels, shops, recycling, and garbage collection when renovating, buying or selling your home. There are several fencing options designed to prevent noise pollution. Fencing solutions can result in huge, possibly unsightly areas of vertical hard surfaces but can be corrected with the addition of decorative touches that also support sound reduction. Large masonry based sound fences and walls are fitting on the boundary of homes with more public areas rather than between homes and suburban backyards.

Put a sound reduction barrier between your home and the source of the noise.  For instance, thick vegetation can considerably decrease noise transfer in many ways. Stems and leaves scatter frequency sound waves, and soft earth surfaces decrease the intensity of low-frequency sound by absorbing its energy.

Building design and layout

The best defense against noise is to completely avoid making, or by ensuring that noise sources aren’t very close. Noise levels differ through different times of the day, so it’s useful to try and take account when the noise is generated. Sound leaks through gaps easily, so your layout, building’s construction material, and design can make a big difference.

Noise is problematic within high density and medium housing, and special care in design is necessary to prevent problems. If you’re unable to open windows to keep cool during the summer season, you might want to install a mechanical cooling system.

A passive home is specially designed to promote airflow that transfers cool air or heat through the building. This enhances sound reflection, and transmission qualities of internal surfaces are especially important.

Sound attenuating windows, walls, doors, and roofs can be used as a blockade for external sources of noise. They are costly and tricky to reconstruct into existing homes so they shouldn’t be overlooked during the design stage of a new structure.


Thermal mass is a not good for heat-proofing but can provide acoustic insulation between apartments and rooms, or from outdoor noise, although it may also transmit impact noise and reflect sound. Sound transmission properties of the structure as a whole or on-site construction practices are often overlooked and not taken into account. This can reduce the effective value due to nearby sound transmission paths for example through structural components.

Construction and good design detail are crucial to the performance of both light and heavy construction. Avoid locating waste and construction pipes close to quiet rooms or ensure that they are adequately soundproofed. Always Pay attention to building components such as ceiling and floor plates and to the installation of power outlets and plumbing plates; insulate them acoustically if necessary to ensure the desired performance is achieved.


Sound control doesn’t have to be complicated if you have the right guidance! Creating effective attenuation requires a professionally trained designer who is well aware of the nuances of all these techniques. The nature of noise and its source are so highly variable that the viable solutions may be few and only partially effective. Consequently, discuss with your designer everything in detail and make sure he or she understands your concerns.

Noise pollution is not only maddening and irritating. It’s also detrimental to a person’s well being and overall health. This is why it’s important that you do something about it.


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