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18 June 2018
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Creating better indoor environments is now a real priority, says Forbo Flooring Systems. A much greater emphasis is now placed on the role sustainable buildings play in supporting and helping people live better, healthier and more productive lives.

Silent Steps: Acoustic Flooring

15 September 2016

Not only can noise seriously harm the health and well-being of a building’s occupants, but it can also interfere with their ability to undertake daily activities. 

In a study by Banbury SP and Berry DC (2005), 99 per cent of people surveyed reported that their concentration was impaired by office noise. So manufacturers constantly strive to develop innovative acoustic products. 

Building standards

There are two main standards relating to acoustic performance: Approved Document E (2002) Resistance to the passage of sound and Building Bulletin 93 (BB93)

The first contains guidance for all new and refurbished residential accommodation, and the second provides advice on the performance of separating structures in schools, depending on the noise level or sensitivity of the activities occurring within.

Acoustic flooring’s role 

Carpet has the greatest sound-dampening properties, but the challenge comes when a resilient flooring is needed. This is where sheet acoustic flooring comes into its own. 

Floor coverings can help in two ways – to impact sound reduction (noise generated by traffic that is transmitted through the floor to other rooms), and reducing in-room impact noise. Impact sound reduction is generally achieved with flooring such as acoustic vinyl or linoleum by adding an insulating layer. 

Linoleum is made from ingredients such as linseed oil, wood and cork flours and tree resin, while vinyl is a synthetic product, made from chemicals such as ethylene and chlorine.

Practical considerations 

Depending on the area of use, residual indentation is also an important consideration when choosing an acoustic floor. The additional sound insulation layers can reduce the indentation resistance properties of the floor covering. High residual indentation values can be an issue when pushing heavy rolling loads such as hospital beds, increasing the physical exertion required. 

Choosing acoustic flooring means choosing the best combination of acoustic performance/indentation properties, depending on location and constraints (traffic, heavy, static or rolling loads). 

Measuring sound reduction 

Impact sound reduction testing is performed in an accredited test laboratory, where the impact noise is generated by a machine with a series of hammers directly hitting a concrete slab in an emission room. 

The impact sound pressure level produced in the receiving room below is measured. The floor covering to be tested is then laid on the concrete slab and the test is repeated; the impact sound pressure level is then measured. The weighted impact sound reduction value (∆Lw) is the difference between the two sound pressure levels measured across a range of frequencies.

Appropriate acoustic performance will contribute to more effective environments. For schools, it contributes towards a quiet atmosphere to help children learn, and for hospitals and elderly homes, more peaceful environments to help people recover – even if the medical staff are active.