Acoustic regulations

Acoustic regulations

Building Regulations Approved Document E - Resistance to the Passage of Sound

Approved Document E of the Building Regulations came into force in July 2003. It is designed to meet demands for improved acoustic insulation and to combat the problems of noise pollution from outside the property. The Regulations apply to all residential new build and conversions (including houses, flats, student residences, care homes and hotels) and set out minimum standards for sound insulation.

The Regulations focus on four main areas:

E1 - Protection against sound from other parts of the building and adjoining buildings (separating walls and floors). Party walls are covered in a separate section to this document.

E2 - Protection against sound within a dwelling house etc (internal walls and floors).

E3 - Reverberation in the common internal parts of buildings containing flats or rooms for residential purposes.

E4 - Acoustic conditions in schools (Building Bulletin 93).

Past problems led legislators to make the builder responsible for the performance of acoustic insulation in practice: having to demonstrate compliance to Building Control in one of two ways.

Pre-Completion Testing (PCT) involves on-site tests by an accredited acoustician on at least 10 of each property type on a development, involving measurements of sound levels passing through completed structural elements. Failure normally involves expensive remedial action and disruption to the programme.

The alternative involves employing a series of approved, product based solutions, licensed by Robust Details Limited, and covering floors and walls built with lightweight as well as traditional materials.

RDs are applicable only to new build apartments and homes, and demand the builder adheres to the design and materials registered with Robust Details, an approval procedure which involves a large number of specimen PCTs on different sites.

Approved Document E was amended in 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2015. Different requirements apply to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Building Bulletin 93 - Acoustic Design of Schools

The aim of BB93 is to provide a regulatory framework for the acoustic design of schools in support of the Building Regulations Approved Document E. Requirement E4 states that ‘each room or other space in a school building shall have the acoustic conditions and the sound insulation against disturbance by noise appropriate to its normal use’. All school buildings must conform to BB93 and are subject to detailed design checks as well as on-site inspections.

It is well documented that an acoustically comfortable environment free from intrusive outside noise or reverberation - is conducive to learning; and is of special help to those children with hearing or learning difficulties. Glass and stone wool, meanwhile, has a proven performance track record for use in all types of construction, where it can reduce reverberation and inhibit the transmission of different wavelengths. The insulation material is accordingly installed internal to cavities, above suspended ceilings and within partitions to achieve these aims. It is even used to make up suspended acoustic baffles that can rectify problems in existing properties.

Building Bulletin 93 was amended in December 2015. BB93 sets out minimum performance standards for the acoustics of school buildings, and describes the normal means of demonstrating compliance with the Building Regulations in England, Wales and NI. It also provides guidance in support of the School Premises Regulations (2012) and the Independent School Standards (2013).