Turn down the volume


Karen Wilding of Forbo Flooring Systems explains how noise can be minimised in multi-occupancy buildings by retrofitting acoustic flooring solutions.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities.

In social housing, where multi-occupancy flats and house-shares have become increasingly common, the potential for nuisance noise where tenants live above, below and adjacent to one another is understandably high, as sound can easily travel from floor to floor and room to room.

If left uncontrolled, it can become a real problem, causing stress, affecting individual’s ability to sleep, or even leading to the increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, as well as contributing to a greater likelihood of hearing loss.

It is therefore clear that lower noise pollution is essential to promote the wellbeing and comfort of tenants – but this cannot be achieved without acoustic treatment.

The good news is, advances in sound insulation solutions mean that noises coming from inside or outside of a building can now be significantly reduced.

There are a number of solutions available, which can be used individually, or together, as part of a broader acoustic scheme. However, the best way to minimise impact sound is at the source, and the choice of flooring can deliver an important contribution in reducing noise in buildings – just as effective when retrofitted into existing properties to improve living standards. Acoustic floor coverings, for example, are manufactured with high performance backing foam to enhance impact sound reduction, which mitigates sound transmission between floors once installed.

As you can imagine, the clatter of footsteps can quickly become deafening if measures were not previously taken to reduce impact sound. Managing impact sound is underpinned by standard EN ISO 717-2 and when evaluating potential floor coverings, social housing providers can compare acoustic performance against this standard to find the most effective solutions.

Historically, acoustic vinyl offers one of the highest levels of noise reduction performance. Perfect for areas subject to heavy foot traffic, such as communal areas or corridors, these solutions combine acoustic performance with optimal resistance to indentation, as well as excellent durability. Solutions are typically available in 15 dB and 19 dB variants, and the choice will depend on specific requirements. The latest developments in design also means that there is an unrivalled choice of colours, graphics and designs to choose from, ensuring that the aesthetics of a space are not compromised.

For areas that require a softer finish, such as bedrooms, flocked floor coverings combine warmth, comfort and impact sound reduction properties with outstanding hardwearing performance. They are also easy to clean and maintain. With products available on the market that can reduce impact noise by up to 22 dB, this flooring can minimise the sound of footsteps, voices and ambient noise. It is also worth looking out for products that have been awarded the Allergy UK Seal of Approval™ too, as these can make a further positive contribution to occupant health and wellbeing.

When it comes to refurbishing existing properties, while the ideal scenario for social housing providers would be to ensure that work is carried out while rooms and buildings are vacant, this may not always be the case. The urgent need to bring some properties up to higher acoustic standards is likely to mean that tenants will still be living in their homes during any building work, and refurbishments should be programmed to minimise disruption and downtime in order to avoid disturbance. For these situations, it is now possible for social housing providers to turn to acoustic vinyl solutions that offer an adhesive free, ‘fast fit’ installation.

Adhesive free acoustic vinyl solutions, as their name suggests, require no adhesive, tackifier or double-sided tape, which can reduce installation time by over 50 per cent compared to their standard, glued down counterparts. Quick and easy to install, even while the property is still in use, there is little to no noise, dust or lingering odours. In fact, all of the usual constraints associated with adhesives are eliminated, including setting times and drying times. The floor can even be walked on immediately after installation, meaning that areas are only out of action for a minimal amount of time, enabling enhanced acoustic performance to be achieved rapidly. These solutions are ideal for keeping installation costs and time to a minimum.

What’s more, the acoustic offering also expands to luxury vinyl tiles, which is perfect for areas where beautiful floor design is key. In wet rooms and kitchens, acoustic safety flooring offers sustainable slip resistance. And with greater emphasis on the need to make environmentally conscious decisions, acoustic linoleum options offer those managing multi-occupancy properties, as well as tenants, a low maintenance solution, which can be cleaned easily, without the need for specialist tools or chemicals.

Poor acoustics can impact the overall living environment and excessive noise can be a major nuisance. Even at lower levels, it can affect attention span, increase stress levels and cause negative effects on health and wellbeing. Therefore, it is key that social housing providers put measures in place to ensure a quiet and comfortable living environment for current and future tenants.

Social housing providers should work together with acoustic flooring experts to ensure that residential buildings are fitted out with the most appropriate solutions.

Karen Wilding is segment marketing manager for housing at Forbo Flooring Systems