Exterior or Outdoor Noise

Exterior or outdoor noise problems can and do cause annoyance in the community, disturb sleep, cause health problems and generally impact the quality of life. Sonic-Shield Soundproofing is dedicated to improving the quality of life of our customers through the reduction of unwanted noise and on the following pages we will demonstrate some of our solutions that may be pertinent to/for your specific exterior or outdoor noise problem.

For now, however, let’s talk about exterior or outside noise and see if we can give you some background on a problem that affects most of us directly or indirectly. Frequently referred to as noise pollution, community noise problems or environmental noise, the causes are many and varied though frequently the cause can be traced to machinery of some sort. Noise sources such as air traffic, road traffic or marine traffic are difficult to treat due to the distances between the noise source and the afflicted party or parties.

Generators, pumps, motors, engines, air conditioners, deep wells, oil fracking machinery, utilities, transformers, cell towers, construction sites and a range of rooftop mechanical equipment are easier to identify and treat, frequently by enclosing the noise source with sound dampening materials or sound barrier materials.

Two main types of exterior or outdoor noise are created by the noise sources outlined above. Airborne noise, that passes through openings, apertures and other structural gaps can be treated by “plugging the gaps” with sound insulation or sound absorption materials.

Structural borne sound, created by impact or vibration can be treated either at the source by building an enclosure or at the “receiving end” by creating a barrier for the noise, or decoupling the “receiver” from the vibration causing the noise.

One cannot forget Atmospheric noise, which though locally intermittent, is radio noise caused by natural atmospheric processes, primarily lightning discharges in thunderstorms. On a worldwide scale, there are about 40 lightning flashes per second – ≈3.5 million lightning discharges per day.

Communities usually agree about what exterior or outdoor noise volumes are acceptable and what are not. The intensity of sound can be measured objectively in decibels, but our perception of what constitutes noise is affected by subjective factors. These include the type of noise (one person’s music might be another person’s noise), our mood, the time of day, background noise levels and our expectations. Sudden noises such as a motorbike exhaust or screeching brakes can be more disturbing than steady or expected noises. Frequency of noise may also have different impacts.

    Sound levels and their perception

Sound level (dB) Approximate loudness relative to ordinary conversation
Perception example
Sources: NIDCD 2011 and Trace/University of Wisconsin
0 Don’t hear anything Threshold of hearing
10 1/32 as loud Very faint normal breathing
20 1/16 as loud Quiet room
30 1/8 as loud Quiet conversation/quiet office interior
40 1/4 as loud Moderate quiet office/quiet rural area
50 1/2 as loud Quiet suburban area/dishwasher in next room
60 Ordinary conversation Average office/ordinary conversation
70 Twice as loud Loud busy street/vacuum cleaner at 3m
80 4 times as loud Noisy office/passing car at 3m
90 8 times as loud Very loud heavy traffic/passing bus or truck at 3m
100 16 times as loud Loud car horn/passing subway train at 3m
110 32 times as loud Pop group/night club with band playing
120 64 times as loud Extreme; jet take-off at 100m

Options to reduce exterior or outdoor noise- YOU can make a difference

Recognizing these subjective factors helps us determine when others are creating noise unfairly and how to respond. If neighborhood noise is a genuine problem for you, or you believe that you might generate noise that could affect others there are some actions you can take:
• Choose a quiet neighborhood.
• Reduce the noise by talking it over with whoever is causing the problem, or by lodging a complaint.
• Block the noise with barriers, sound absorbent materials and appropriate home design.
• Minimize your own contribution to neighborhood noise.
• Carry out noisy activities during the day.
• Inform your neighbors whenever you need to generate noise, such as a party at home.
• Design your home to minimize noise transfer to your neighbors.
• Select a home that is well designed to limit noise transfer.

Exterior or outdoor neighborhood noise- you CAN make a difference

Common sources of neighborhood noise include:
• road, rail and aircraft traffic
• air conditioners, evaporative coolers and refrigeration units
• pool pumps
• TVs and sound systems
• burglar and car alarms
• household appliances
• dogs and other animals
• industrial premises and backyard workshops
• music from houses, commercial premises and concerts
• road and building maintenance and construction.

Exterior or outdoor traffic noise- You CAN make a difference!

For most of us road noise is the most important neighborhood noise issue as it affects a high proportion of the population, and the problem is growing as traffic levels increase. Many people complain that traffic noise has the greatest direct impact on their “peace and quiet.”

Traffic Exterior or outdoor noise

Minimize the impact of traffic noise on your home — and your contribution to the problem:
• Cycle or walk, rather than drive.
• Buy a quiet car, and drive it less.
• Drive slowly and calmly and maintain your car.
• Shop locally and buy locally made products to reduce freight travel.
• Report noisy vehicles.

Take measures in the design of your home such as using suitable window glazing, managing air leakage, and designing shared walls and floors to limit noise transfer.
Check with your planning authority to see if your property is contained in a designated exterior or outdoor transport noise corridor (rail or road) or is otherwise recognized as being subject to higher than average transport noise levels. If so, measures need to be taken to ensure that your home includes appropriate design responses to the noise corridor.
Work with your neighborhood, local council, community organizations and government to create more livable communities with reduced traffic noise. Central to this is the creation of urban villages based on public transport, walking, cycling, traffic calming and other traffic reduction initiatives.

Exterior or outdoor noise from a construction site
Exterior or outdoor Noise