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Sound solutions
Source : The Hindu Published On : 2011-06-04 City : Chennai

Sound Solutions 

Living on a flight path, or a sleepy highway morphing into a busy IT corridor; seeing your residential locality get ensnared in heavy traffic, because vehicle users have started driving through these once-quiet roads to avoid the rush on the main road; living next to a worship area, where people insist on proclaiming their devotion by blaring music on loudspeakers… these are issues that cause an ear load of problems.

While lack of planned development can be blamed for many of these issues, there are the other kinds of noise irritants, such as the constant rumbling of generators, air conditioners, construction machinery and the like.

According to acoustics consultant Mathew M. George's survey, the noise levels on the OMR, for instance, is about 80-90 dBA. To put these sound levels in perspective, the safe sound levels for residential areas is about 45 dBA at night and 55 dBA for during the day; for commercial areas, it is 55 dBA for

both day and night time. For industrial areas, it is 75 dBA both day and night.

People tend to lose some amount of hearing as they grow old. If we live in an offensively noisy environment, this happens much sooner. So, leaving out earmuffs, is there a way to insulate oneself from jarring noise?

“The right approach is to study the noise levels and the points of entry, decide on the amount of noise insulation you require, and then engineer solutions to fit your requirement,” says Mathew M George.

Noise Insulation

The Kalara family live on a third floor apartment on the Harrington road that bustles with traffic through the day. Inside this house though, noise is refused entry, thanks to the glazed glass units used on the window, instead of plain glass or wooden shutters. Double glazed units consist of two glass sheets with a vacuum sandwiched between them, which prevents sound from travelling through. “If you incorporate a unit of two panes of glass glued together with PVB (a sound absorbent material that dispels sound waves instead of allowing them to pass through) in the double glazed unit, the effectiveness is increased”, says award winning architect Sriram Ganapathi, KSM Consultants. This solution can be applied to windows, doors, skylights, etc.

But cost is a factor. Double glazing can cost anything from Rs. 200 per square foot to Rs. 2000 per square foot, depending on the level of noise isolation engineered. “So, if there is a window that lets in noise, think of closing that window by glass bricks that let in light while shutting out noise, if ventilation can be achieved in some other way,” suggests architect V. Gautham. Greenery, like a curtain of wall hugging plants, can help too.

There is also the option of using sound-isolating false ceilings and cavity walls, which consist of a 2-3 inch layer of vacuum between two layers of bricks. Because sound waves cannot travel through a vacuum, the noise is cut off. “You can also use sandwich panels with material like glass wool (a sound absorbent material) between two gypsum boards to cut off sound,” says Sriram Ganapathi.

Sound masking

Then there are the sound attenuators, which generate frequencies to cancel out offensive noise. They are usable when you are subjected to the same kind of noise invasion. But it is an expensive option, though.

If the offending sound is emanating from inside (as when you have a budding drummer at home), you can mop it off by placing sound absorbent material like carpets, soft and fuzzy furniture, curtains; or fashion your own sound absorbing panels from styrofoam, cork, and fabric, etc and place it on the walls. Plug the crevices on walls, slits around window seals, use door sweeps to block the narrow gap between the door and the floor; add layers to the walls.

On the other hand, smooth surfaces reflect sound waves; so in public spaces, use panels that can reflect sound upwards into the sky.

“One of my clients was an old couple. Since budget was a constraint, my recommendation was for them to have recorded soft classical music on through the day, classical music being something they loved,” says M. George.

So, if the sound of a gurgling waterfall or soft music feels good to your ear, use it to drown out the offensive noise.

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