INSULATION & ACOUSTICS
TURNING DOWN THE VOLUME
ON ENVIRONMENTAL NOISE
Peter Jackson, CEO of acoustic fencing systems manufacturer, Jacksons Fencing, considers the best materials
for tackling noise pollution.
In her recent annual report, UK chief medical
officer (CMO), Professor Dame Sally Davies,
explored pollution and its threat to human
health. As pollution affects us all, she
recommends that public health policy evolves
beyond combatting the well-evidenced impact of
pollutants such as heavy metals and air pollution on
health, to consider the impact of other pollutants,
such as micro-plastics and natural toxins, as well as
light and noise pollution.
According to a study published in the journal
Environmental Health Perspective, environmental
noise pollution is the second largest contributor
to disease in Europe, after air pollution.
Noise pollution affects large swathes of the
population. A 2012 UK government study found
that half (48%) of respondents reported their
home life was spoiled by environmental noise,
with road traffic being the most prevalent form.
Writing in the CMO’s 2018 report, Professor
Stephen Stansfield from Wolfson Institute of
Preventive medicine states: “The most frequent
human responses to environmental noise are
annoyance and sleep disturbance”.
However, there are further, more serious, health
issues that can arise from long-term exposure
40 BUILDING PRODUCTS | JUNE 2018
to excessive noise. These include chronic stress,
hearing damage, hypertension, increased risk of
heart disease and diabetes.
125 million Europeans live with environmental
noise levels above 55dB (European Environment
Agency, 2014) this is the level at which effects to
human health start to appear. To reduce the risk
of ill health, exposure to constant noise should
keep to below this.
While the most effective method to combat
noise pollution is to reduce the sources of
unwanted sound, this is not always possible.
However, the effects of environmental noise
pollution in populated areas can be reduced
through the use of noise barriers. These can be
created from timber, metal, Plexiglas/Perspex/
acrylic or earth, and all can make a significant
positive impact on noise reduction.
Timber is the most cost-effective and flexible
solution and can be adapted to suit most ground
conditions. Combining high superficial mass with
a pleasing natural façade, it can achieve up to
32dB noise reduction in laboratory conditions.
Steel and aluminium products are relatively
costly and they can be prone to ‘drumming’
effects from surface vibrations if not correctly
supported. Plexiglas/Perspex/acrylic barriers can
be effective and allow light and visibility through
the barrier but they need regular cleaning. These
materials can expand and contract depending on
the weather, changes which can impact on the
acoustic integrity. While earth bunds are effective,
they require a significant amount of material to
work sufficiently and need a lot of space due to
their large footprint.
With the UK’s ever increasing population
and the growth of the 24 hour economy, noise
pollution isn’t going away anytime soon. We
have been stressing the importance of acoustic
barriers for some years now. As long as the
population and the infrastructure that serves
it keeps growing, so will unwanted noise. We
should all be looking for solutions to protect
people in their homes and the workplace from its
effects on health and productivity.
Jacksons Fencing has produced a white paper,
‘A quieter world: A guide to environmental
barriers and noise pollution’, that aids in
specifying and selecting the most appropriate
acoustic barrier: www.jacksons-security.co.uk/