Soundproofing for our lives

Soundproofing Buildings

How noisy was your New Year’s Eve? Bearable? Not?

Welcome to 2016! Here’s hoping for a quieter year, for all of us.

Where we live has an important role in the sound/noise levels we are exposed to. If you live under a flight path for an airport, even if you live in a mansion, you will be hit with noise. If you live near neighbours who use snowblowers or leaveblowers or gas lawnmowers, you will be hit with noise. If you live in an apartment building, you will have upstairs neighbour noise, next door neighbour noise, elevator motor noise, outside street traffic noise, etc.

And if you live in New York City, you will be hit with noise – a lot of noise. Even if you live in a wonderful, way-up-in-the -sky penthouse, it will happen. (Nice views, eh?)



Here is an article about a project in NYC where an architect took on a very complicated noise problem:

“It was risky because noisy elevator motors and rooftop exhaust fans had required the previous residents to raise their voices to be heard, and the apartment shook so much that “if you had a tub full of water,” he said, “you could see the surface of the water ripple.”

  As the article notes, the owners of the building had decided that the only option was to shut off the rooftop ventilating system while the penthouse occupants were asleep.

The architect, Pietro Cicognani, went off and hired a mechanical engineer to help him solve the problem. The engineer tested the apartment, and came up with a plan for “materials and construction methods that would hush the rumble and hum.” And in the end, the customers were very satisfied. (The engineer he hired was Dr. Bonnie Schnitta. Check out her CV and background here. She sounds like she is very good at what she does!)

As noted in the article, Soundsense is a company that specializes in acoustic solutions. See their portfolio of residential fixes here.

And Soundseal is another company mentioned in the article. Check out their site here.

So there is creative and effective work being done to address the issue of noise in homes and apartments. What is very interesting is in the last part of the NYT article – if you are starting from scratch, using good sound proofing products and approaches only adds about 2.5% to the total cost of building. Which is a fair amount of money, but perhaps well worth it, assuming you can afford it!


But what about noise at your workplace?

Many workplaces use open office designs. But,

 “One of the most egregious downsides of the modern open-plan office is its lack of thoughtful acoustics. In addition to designing flexible workstations that allow open-plan office workers a little privacy amid the collective chaos, designers are increasingly turning their attention to the invisible scourge on productivity and well-being that is too much concentration-busting noise.” (

So if you work in such an environment, you know the problem. But help is just around the corner. Check out this article about various solutions. (The company Layer makes a hemp-based product called “Scale” which looks very interesting!)

layer's scale acoustic system

So – talented and creative and smart people ARE out there, working on the problem of noise pollution. Let us hope that they get the notice and work they deserve!

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