Soundproofing secrets for a quieter student block

Student accommodations can be noisy environments which can disrupt sleep, add to stress, infringe on privacy, and generally compromise quality of life. Achieving a high acoustic performance throughout a building where there are lightweight walls and many social break-out spaces is a task that needs to be done right from the off. As developers and clients are more frequently choosing modern methods of construction, such as off-site and modular building, the need to get the acoustic specifications right has become more important than ever. When designing these types of mixed-use multi-occupancy living, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered at the planning stages to ensure the design brief is met.

Beyond the minimum

Keep in mind the minimum requirements under Part E of the Building Regulations are really just that – the bare minimum of what needs to be achieved. Most complaints made about noise issues can occur in properties which only scraped passes through onsite pre-completion testing. Therefore, always look to design for at least a 5-dB improvement on the minimal values set out in Part E as a safety factor, for effective levels of sound proofing and also to allow for any workmanship issues during installation. Even if your scheme doesn’t qualify under the Robust Details (RDL) scheme, you should still look to adopt these construction methods in to your designs. Having been rigorously tested on many projects before gaining RDL Part L compliance, they exceed the minimum requirements under Part E. Adopting commonly used details such as E-FT-5 (timber frame) and E-FS-3 (light gauge steel frame) will help speed up the design process in the knowledge that either system gives you peace of mind in your materials choice.

Build to last

With fast-build projects, choosing materials that are not necessarily the cheapest yet offer the best value to the whole build process can prove to be invaluable to meeting tight build programmes. Most new student accommodation projects will look to install high-quality vinyl floor finishes, and these cannot be laid to a 50 mm screeded floor until at least 50 days after it has been installed and allowed to adequately dry out. By nature, student accommodations need a hard-wearing, robust acoustic flooring build to deal with everyday life in a halls of residence. Multiple floor finishes such as vinyl, ceramic tiles, laminate flooring and carpets may have to be installed in addition to the acoustic floor. Always seek advice from the relevant product manufacturers to ensure the materials are compatible and have been tested together before. Additional floor preparation, such as overlaying a chipboard-based acoustic floor with plywood and flexible levelling compounds can sometimes add substantial costs to individual packages to cause further delays on site.

Environmental targets

There are several solutions within the market place that can be considered, but only one dry screed treatment board product that is manufactured from 100 per cent recycled content, a significant benefit for architects and specifiers aiming to achieve maximum BREEAM points.

Managing deliveries

Further delays to the process can be caused by restricted site access on university campuses and city centre developments. In truth, timed deliveries and poor site locations really don’t mix well. An example of this is a failed flowing screed delivery that typically needs to be installed within hours of leaving the production plant. It could best to select solutions that can be stored on site and accessed as and when required.

Some companies will allow you to call off the product when you need it, while others will deliver the complete job at once. To avoid issues, it’s worth asking your chosen suppliers how they operate as you may have little room for large pallets. Easy to handle 1,200 mm x 600 mm boards are ideal for storage and distribution around the site. As they are just under 20 kg per sheet, it’s a one-man lift compared to the flowing screed that typically needs to be installed within hours of leaving the production plant.

Asking for advice before your project gets fully underway could save you and your client valuable time and money – so make the most of the knowledgeable technical teams available.

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