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Top Noise Complaints Throwdown! Pt. 2

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Top Noise Cartoon 2

Welcome to the second installment of Top Noise Complaints Throwdown! In case if you haven’t had a chance to read Part I, here’s some background info:

On average, Acentech gets 5-10 email requests per week for acoustics, noise, vibration and AV help from the outside world. We were talking about this in a meeting recently, and decided one way to potentially help the public would be to publish a blog post on our top noise complaints with advice from a few of our consultants. The following questions are based off of real questions and issues sent to our firm through our website. Let’s dive in and meet our experts!

Benjamin Davenny is a Principal Consultant for Acoustics, with 18 years of experience wrestling with acoustics, noise and vibration issues. In his spare time he plays bass and referees noisy conflicts between his kids.

Bob Connick, Acoustics Consultant, is a whiz at writing, playing board games, and figuring out creative ways to mitigate unwanted noise in many different scenarios.

With that in mind, let’s get to question three!


Part A: Vibration / structural issues effecting neighboring businesses or homes. You love your gym, but were horrified to find out it’s moving directly above your office in a few months. You’re already getting a headache thinking of loud spinning music and muscle-heads dropping medicine balls right over your head, yikes!

Ben: Scream! Jump up and down! Whatever it takes to get your landlord’s attention. The impact noises from dropped weights and the sonic assaults of screaming spinning studio instructors cannot be soothed with a little carpet on the floor above, not even with sweet shag carpeting. Serious engineering and design is required to reduce the effects on your office.

Bob: Okay, I know I said before that going out and screaming at things is not a great solution, but in this case Ben has a good point. Putting loud fitness spaces next to other spaces is always asking for trouble. It can work, but it will usually take A LOT of work to make all the parties happy (we’re talking specialized fitness floors that cost upwards of $50 a square foot).
If you (or the landlord) is set on bringing a fitness center into the building, a better place for it might be below other spaces on the lowest floor, and preferably* on slab on grade. In any case, the landlord is in for a non-insignificant amount of upgrades to the building and careful management of the fitness space’s operation. It would also be a good idea to make sure that the lease language is carefully designed for your expectations of noise transmission. Careful planning and management of expectations can go a long way towards avoiding problems in the future (when it will be a lot harder to fix).
*read: if it’s not slab on grade, please just don’t
Alternatively, if you find yourself in a position where fitness noise is a problem, you could go and join the class (and maybe ask for a discount). The noise isn’t noise if you ARE the noise.

Sandy: Good points! Part B: OK, what about vibration issues of a teeny-tiny scale? Say, your lab is building a quantum computer that needs a specially-designed room isolating it from vibration and radio waves. You have everything planned, but heard a rumor the research facility you work for might be building a new wing next year, and are wondering how you’ll ever sleep at night worrying about construction-related vibration ruining your machine and years of research!

Ben: Information is power and the truth shall set you free. You need to talk with the contractor to find out their construction schedule and when the real nasty noise and vibration events are happening. It’s possible to simulate some of these construction tasks ahead of time, before construction even begins, so you can see how they will affect your facility. And try to get some sleep.

Bob: As Ben said, the best solution is to approach this diplomatically. Take a deep breath (maybe try meditation) and try to get in touch with your inner contractor, sorry I mean the contractor in charge of construction. While, pre-construction testing can help you determine what might be an issue, and scheduling can help avois these issue, you still may end up in a position where some noise or vibration is going to get through.
If this is the case you can use on-site noise and vibration monitors to track when these events occur so you’ll at least know when data might be compromised. This won’t always be ideal, or even a viable solution for some situations, but unless you’re willing to move the equipment it could be that this is the best way to get through the construction process without hindering your current operations.


Sandy: Your room acoustics are all wrong. You just moved into a gorgeous high-rise condo with stunning views of the city. Everything is perfect…except for the weird echo you get when you’re talking on the phone in your glass and concrete-walled living room. Super annoying, right?

Ben: Have you tried shag carpet? If not, there’s probably a happy interior design medium between Austin Powers and the renovated house from Beetlejuice. Get some soft furnishings to take the edge off that echo and warm the space up a little.

Bob: If that type of furnishing isn’t your thing, or you find that it isn’t quite enough, you can supplement that shag rug with some wall or ceiling panels. There are a lot of products out there that you can buy, but you can also make your own versions to match your desired aesthetic. The simplest design is a wood frame filled with an inch thick layer of glass fiber, all wrapped up in a nice fabric. This can also be a useful addition when a big home theater system is involved as it will bring you closer to that “Low Reverberance” movie theater environment.


Sandy: OK, last but not least – your acoustic treatments are non-existent. You own a chic restaurant downtown and business is booming…literally! It’s almost impossible for you to communicate with your staff, it’s so loud! Not an immediate issue, but you’re seeing negative reviews online and want to get ahead of customer complaints that they can’t carry on a conversation without SHOUTING.

Ben: Get a better ceiling, period. You want something with a high Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC). Nowadays there are all kinds of products that meet this requirement, so your ceiling doesn’t have to look like something out of Office Space.

Bob: As Ben said, the ceiling is the best place to treat. Don’t bother with the floor, or under the tables. Treating the walls might help, but it would be very situational and only really worth it if you have a small enclosed dining space for private parties.
You could also get one of those big noise detecting stoplights to warn your patrons that they’re being too rowdy. It could go well with the right theme and is sure to be a big hit for anyone that has ever been stuck in traffic!

Sandy: This has been great! I’ve learned something, our audience has learned something, and hopefully Bob and Ben have learned something too, about healthy competition, and how good it feels to be acousticians in a very noisy world. Thanks for playing, guys!