Below is a useful resource, summarising the key guidance and legislation in acoustics. Browse, or use the search tool if you know what you're looking for.
Approved Document E
The latest version of Approved Document E (ADE) of the Building Regulations was published in 2003 with amendments added in 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2015. The document specifies the acoustic requirements for residential properties and schools.
Detailed acoustic performance requirements are provided for residential properties. The performance criteria vary depending on whether the premises are dwellings or rooms for residential purposes, and whether they are new build or conversions. Acoustic testing of a sample of the walls and floors is required to demonstrate compliance with the performance standards, apart from new houses or flats that have been built using Robust Details.
The document provides a large amount of information on typical wall and floor constructions and details that, if built correctly, should achieve the acoustic performance requirements.
ADE refers to Building Bulletin 93 for the acoustic criteria for schools that will need to be met to ensure that requirement E4 of ADE is complied with.
BB93: Acoustics in Schools
Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) was originally published in 2004 to provide a design guide for dealing with acoustics in new school buildings. The revised document was published in 2014 and provides performance standards, acoustic principles, good design practice and calculation procedures.
BB93 is part of the Building Regulations and provides acoustic performance specifications to be met for new build, newly converted or extended school building. Sound insulation between rooms, ambient noise levels within teaching rooms, and reverberation times within rooms must all meet specific criteria depending on the intended use of the room and adjacent rooms. The standard is compulsory for schools, but is also used for other educational buildings as a set of design targets.
The main aim of the regulations is to ensure that those trying to teach and learn are, at the very least, not hindered by the acoustics of the building, and at best the building is actually enhancing the learning experience. Whilst the future of BB93 is currently under consideration, acoustic performance standards are seen as vital to providing an effective education system.
The acoustic criteria relate to noise intrusion from external sources, sound insulation requirements between rooms, and control of reverberation times within rooms. Guidance is also provided on additional requirements for pupils with hearing requirements.
noise assessments | acoustic design | sound insulation testing | noise monitoring | building services
BREEAM is an environmental assessment method for rating and certifying the performance of a wide range of building types, that was first launched in 1990. The most recent New Construction technical manual, which applies to non-domestic buildings, was published in 2018.
Credits are achieved by meeting acoustic requirements, with the requirements varying depending the development type.
Acoustic performance is addressed in the Health and Well-being section (Hea 05) of the document, its purpose being "to ensure the building is capable of providing an appropriate acoustic environment to provide comfort for building users".
External sources of noise impacting the chosen site; site layout and zoning of the building for good acoustics; acoustic requirements for users with special hearing and communication needs; and acoustic treatment of different zones and facades should be considered at an early stage.
Courts, data centres, pre-schools, schools and sixth form colleges, healthcare, industrial, residential, multi-residential, offices, prisons and retail developments are all included in BREEAM guidance.
Noise attenuation under the Pollution section (Pol 05) aims to "reduce the likelihood of noise arising from fixed installations on the new development affecting nearby noise-sensitive buildings".
British Council for Offices
The British Council for Offices is an organisation for all those involved in creating, acquiring or occupying office space. It has published a number of design guides in relation to office space, and the 2014 version of the BCO Guide to Specification includes noise criteria for office spaces.
The criteria deal with both external noise break in and internally generated noise from building services equipment. The noise criteria are specified as noise rating (NR) curves. These curves specify different noise levels at different frequencies. NR criteria are provided for open plan and cellular offices as well as ancillary spaces such as toilets and lobbies.
building services | acoustic design | noise monitoring | sound insulation testing | noise assessments
British Standard 4142 Methods for rating and assessing industrial and commercial sound, which was published in 2014, is the latest version of a long-established standard addressing the potential noise impact of industrial and commercial noise.
The standard describes a very widely used methodology for assessing and rating noise impact from industrial and commercial sites on noise sensitive properties. The standard can be used to investigate complaints, assess proposals for new industrial and commercial developments and new residential developments adjacent to existing industrial and commercial uses.
The assessment methodology involves establishing the rating level of sound due to the industrial or commercial source under consideration. The rating level is calculated by hearing or predicting the sound level due to the source and then adding penalties where appropriate for characteristics that make the sound more intrusive (such as tonality, or impulsivity).
The rating level is then compared to the background sound level which is the level of sound (in LA90) that prevails in the absence of the source under consideration. Where the rating level is no higher than the background sound level, this is an indication of "low impact". Where the rating level is around 5 dB above the background sound level, this is an indication of "adverse impact"; and where the rating level is 10 dB or more above the background sound level, this indicates a "significant adverse impact"
One important aspect of the latest version of BS 4142 is that the initial estimate of noise impact (carried out as described above) can be modified where necessary to take into account the context of the specific situation under consideration.
British Standard 5228 Code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction and open sites, the latest edition of which was published in 2009 and amended in 2014, is divided in to two parts. Part 1 addresses noise, with Part 2 addressing vibration
Part 1 provides basic information on the prediction and measurement of noise from construction sites and operations such as mines and quarries. Methods of assessment are described alongside a review of relevant legislation. Part 1 also includes a large database of source noise levels for commonly used equipment and activities on construction sites. This data was measured and obtained by Hepworth Acoustics working as a part of a research contract commissioned by Defra.
The standard provides guidance on the 'threshold of significant effect' in respect of noise impact at dwellings. Whilst no fixed limits are stipulated, one suggested method for determining threshold noise levels is known as the 'ABC method'. This involves measuring existing ambient noise levels outside the dwellings and categorising them A, B or C accordingly, with the relevant threshold level derived from the category.
Part 2 deals with vibration from construction and open sites. The legislative background is provided, together with information on vibration control. A review of relevant vibration criteria is provided together with guidance on measuring vibration.
British Standard 6472 Evaluation of exposure to vibration in buildings provides a methodology for the assessment of vibration impact on people in buildings. The standard is split in to two parts;
Part 1 addresses vibration from sources other than blasting and provides a methodology for predicting human response to vibration in buildings over the frequency range 0.5 to 80 Hz. The standard sets out means of measuring vibration, and assessing the vibration dose value from the measured results. It also provides guidance on the likelihood of adverse comment on vibration levels during day and night time periods.
Part 2 of the standard concerns blast induced vibration. Guidance is given on vibration measurement procedures and acceptable vibration levels for residential, office and workshop uses. Threshold vibration levels are also provided, below which there is likely to be a low probability of adverse comment.
British Standard 8233 Sound insulation and noise reduction for buildings provides wide-ranging guidance on acoustics for buildings and provides definitions of many acoustic terms. Basic information is provided within the standard for non-specialists who have dealings with acoustics, together with more detailed information for acoustic specialists.
The Standard contains a wealth of information discussing noise from external noise sources, acceptable noise levels within and around buildings and how to achieve those levels. It provides ambient noise criteria for a variety of room types and uses together with guidance on appropriate noise levels for external amenity areas. In the absence of specific numerical guidance by Government on acceptable noise levels in relation to new developments, the BS 8233 guidance is commonly used.
noise assessments | noise monitoring | acoustic design | planning & Licensing | noise mapping | building services
Control of Noise at Work Regulations
The 2005 version of the Regulations came in to force on 6th April 2006, with the exception of the music and entertainment sectors, where the introduction was delayed for 2 years. The Regulations were an update of the 1990 Regulations, and introduced new noise limits for protecting employees hearing.
The Regulations contain lower exposure action values, upper exposure action values and exposure limit values. The action values and limit values are specified in terms of peak sound pressure values and overall noise exposure in terms of daily or weekly personal noise exposure. The lower action values identify where hearing protection has to be made available to staff and other actions are required by employers. The upper action value determines the level where hearing protection must be used by employees. The exposure limit value is the maximum level that employees shall be exposed to taking in to account noise control actions including the effects of ear defenders.
Calculation of Railway Noise (CRN) was produced by the Department of Transport in 1995 and provides the method of calculating (and measuring) railway traffic noise levels for new and altered railways. The document is the method of assessment to be used in the Noise Insulation (Railways) Regulations. The calculation method can however also used for carrying out railway noise assessments for planning purposes.
The calculation takes in to account the generation of noise from rail traffic by the various sources such as rail/wheel interface and diesel power sources. The screening effects of any barriers, buildings and ground contours are assessed along with distance attenuation. Finally any reflection effects are considered, and the combined noise level at a given point is calculated for all the different train types passing the receptor.
Calculation of Road Traffic Noise (CRTN) was produced by the Department of the Environment (now DEFRA) and the Welsh Office in 1988 and provides the method of calculating (and measuring) road traffic noise levels for new and altered highways. The document is referred to as the method of assessment to be used in the Noise Insulation Regulations. However, the document is also used for carrying out road traffic noise assessments for planning purposes in relation to Design Manual for Roads and Bridges as well as developments such as housing sites adjacent to existing and proposed roads.
The prediction method calculates the source noise from road traffic by taking in to account the traffic volume, percentage of heavy vehicles, speed, gradient and road surface type. The screening effects of any barriers, buildings and ground contours are assessed along with distance attenuation. Finally any reflection effects are considered, and the combined noise level at a given point is calculated for all the roads affecting the receptor.
DMRB Vol. 11
Volume 11, Section 3, Part 7 of the Design Manual details the methodology to be adopted to assess the noise and vibration aspects of new highway schemes in the UK, and sets the overall aims and objectives of the Environmental Assessment process. The latest version of this document was introduced in 2011.
The document details different levels of assessment depending on whether the requirement is for a scoping, simple or detailed assessment. The document also contains some additional advice on calculating noise levels for situations not fully covered in CRTN.
Section 1 sets the framework for Environmental Assessments and is project specific.
Section 2 covers the principles that apply specifically to environmental impact assessments for projects and sets the context for more detailed topic-specific environmental impact assessment guidance presented in Section 3.
Section 3 is broken down into a set of specific topic areas and provides specific guidance on methods of environmental impact assessment, forecasting techniques and the levels of design detail and consultations required for the assessment to be fully undertaken.Guidance on the provision and assessment of mitigation and enhancement measures is also provided in Section 3 each topic scecific section. Clarification on reporting requirements are also included.
Section 4 provides guidance for the Assessment of Implications on European Sites process.
Environmental Protection Act 1990
The Act contains the main legislative controls for noise pollution in the UK. Section 80 of the Act gives local authorities the power to serve a noise abatement notice where a statutory noise nuisance exists. Section 82 allows any individual to apply to a magistrates court for a noise abatement notice to be served if the court is convinced that a statutory nuisance exists.
The Act does not provide any guidance on noise levels that cause a statutory nuisance. The term 'statutory nuisance' is defined as 'noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance'. If a noise abatement notice is breached, the person responsible for the nuisance can be prosecuted for the breach of the notice, and in the case of a business be fined up to £20,000.
The document published in 1996 is the report of the Working Group on Noise from Wind Turbines and contains details of assessment methodologies and criteria. The Working Group consisted of representatives from the industry, consultants and local authorities. The report is not a government document but is referred to in current government guidance as the appropriate method for assessing wind farm noise.
The document provides a simplified noise criterion of 35 dB LA90 for single turbines, or groups of turbines with a very large separation distance to the nearest properties. Where the simplified approach is not appropriate, a suitable background noise survey is required and noise limits are set using either background noise levels plus 5 dB or fixed limits, whichever is the higher. All limits are set in terms of dB LA90.
In recent years, the ETSU R-97 guidance has been supplemented by further guidance from the Institute of Acoustics.
HTM 08-01: Acoustics
Health Technical Memorandum 08-01: Acoustics (2013) outlines criteria for acoustics in the design and management of new healthcare developments, and addresses issues associated with provision of temporary healthcare facilities, refurbishments and the control of noise and vibration during construction.
The memo recommends acoustic criteria for:
- Noise levels in rooms both from mechanical services within the building and from noise intrusion from external sources;
- External noise levels noise created by the healthcare building and operation should not unduly affect those that live and work around it;
- Airborne sound insulation between rooms;
- Impact sound insulation between rooms;
- Room acoustics;
- Audio systems; and
- Audiology facilities.
MTAN 1 (Wales)
Minerals Technical Advice Note 1: Aggregates (MTAN 1) was produced in 2009 and provides the detailed advice from the Welsh Government in relation to aggregates extraction in Wales.
The document sets out a number of criteria and planning conditions that can be used to control noise and vibration from aggregates extraction, including;
Providing mineral resources to meet society's needs
- Current Aggregates production;
- Future demand;
- Future supply;
- Protecting areas of importance;
- Reducing the impact of aggregates production;
- Restoration and aftercare;
- Efficiency of use/recycling;
- Annexes on Regional Aggregates Working Parties (RAWPs), Reclamation to Agriculture, Soil, Planting and seeding.
MTAN 2 (Wales)
Minerals Technical Advice Note 2: Coal (MTAN 2) was produced by the National Assembly for Wales in January 2009 to provide detailed advice on the policy for both surface and underground working of coal in Wales.
Annex 2 identifies the significant effects of noise from surface minerals operations, identifies good practice in controlling noise, and states how the planning system can keep noise emissions within environmentally acceptable limits without imposing unreasonable burdens on mineral operators.
Advice is provided on dealing with potential noise issues through the development control process. Recommendations are provided for acceptable noise levels, both for normal site operations, and for short term operations. Guidance is also given on compliance monitoring of noise limits and specific examples of good practice in noise reduction are detailed.
Code of Practice on Environmental Noise Control at Concerts
This document was produced by the Noise Council in 1995. The code is designed to consider noise from large scale daytime music events at outdoor venues and within lightweight buildings.
The code was drawn up by a working party of acousticians with a a particular interest in noise from music events. The main guidance was drawn up for venues that are used on up to 12 days per year. A range of noise criteria are provided for noise sensitive properties, depending on the venue category and the number of events per year. Where events continue beyond 23:00 hours, it is recommended that music noise should not be audible within residential premises. Recommendations are provided for noise control measures and suitable licensing conditions.
planning & licensing | noise assessments | noise monitoring | acoustic design
Noise Insulation Regulations
The Noise Insulation Regulations 1975 (as amended 1988) document the procedures to be used to assess the requirement to provide noise insulation to residential properties adjacent to new and altered highway schemes. The Regulations provide criteria for overall noise levels, the contribution from traffic on the new or altered highway, a distance cut off of 300m, and they only apply to roads built or altered since October 1969. The Regulations also contain a power to enable noise insulation to properties as a result of construction noise from highway schemes.
Properties that are eligible for noise insulation are provided with a package of measures including secondary glazing and acoustic ventilation for qualifying rooms. In some circumstances, a grant towards the cost of the works can be provided.
The Noise Insulation (Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems) regulations of 1996 address the requirement to provide noise insulation to residential properties adjacent to new and altered railway or tram schemes. The Regulations provide criteria for overall noise levels, the contribution from traffic on the new or altered railway and a distance cut off of 300m.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) supersedes PPG 24 which gave guidance on noise issues related to planning policy. The NPPF was published in March 2012 and sets out the Government's planning policies for England and how they are to be applied. The NPPF lists 44 documents that are replaced by the framework. As the guidance within the NPPF is contained within 49 pages, the document does not go in to the detail of the previous government guidance.
Paragraph 123 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states the following:
Planning polices and decisions should aim to:
- avoid noise from giving rise to significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life as a result of new development;
- mitigate and reduce to a minimum other adverse impacts on health and quality of life arising from noise from new development, including through the use of conditions;
- recognise that development will often create some noise and existing businesses wanting to develop in continuance of their business should not have unreasonable restrictions put on them because of changes in nearby land uses since they were established; and
- identify and protect areas of tranquillity which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason.
Paragraph 144 of the document states the following in relation to minerals sites:
When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should:
ensure that any unavoidable noise, dust and particle emissions and any blasting vibrations are controlled, mitigated or removed at source, and establish appropriate noise limits for extraction in proximity to noise sensitive properties;
Reference is made to the Technical Guidance to the National Planning Policy Framework for further information on how the policies should be implemented in terms of noise.
A draft revision to the NPPF was published in March 2018, so some changes are expected in the near future.
Planning Practice Guidance: Minerals
This document was published in March 2012 and provides detailed technical guidance on noise from minerals workings. Noise issues are covered in Section 4 of the document. This section of the document discusses noise emissions from mineral workings, the procedures that should be adopted to assess and control noise, and provides detailed guidance on noise criteria. The recommended noise criteria are divided in to two categories:
- the first category is for normal operations that are carried out on a day to day basis on site; and
- the second set of noise criteria are for short term operations that cannot meet the criteria for normal operations.
Examples of these types of operation include soil-stripping, the construction and removal of baffle mounds, soil storage mounds and spoil heaps, construction of new permanent landforms and aspects of site road construction and maintenance.
It is recommended that higher limits for these operations should be limited to no more than 8 weeks in a year.
The noise criteria contained in the document are the same as those that were contained in the superseded Technical Guidance to the NPPF.
ProPG: Planning & Noise (Professional Practice Guidance on Planning & Noise) - New Residential Development was jointly produced by the Association of Noise Consultants (ANC), Institute of Acoustics (IOA), and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and published in June 2017.
The document provides "guidance on a recommended approach to the management of noise within the planning system in England" in the context of new residential development. It is only intended to be used for new developments on land that is exposed to transportation noise, or transportation noise and minor (i.e. non-dominant) industrial/commercial noise. It is not intended to be used in reverse i.e. for proposed new noise sources affecting existing dwellings.
A two stage approach is described in the guidance:
- Initial Site Noise Risk Assessment which should be conducted before any planning application is made. This can be done by measurement or prediction, or combination of both, but the aim should be to describe noise levels over a ‘typical worst case’ 24 hour day, now or in the future.
- Full Assessment where four key elements need to be considered to produce an "Acoustic Design Statement": The key elements include good acoustic design, and noise level guidelines within dwellings and for external amenity spaces. Good acoustic design includes provision of adequate ventilation and avoiding overheating.
The Robust Details Certification Scheme is a compliance scheme for sound insulation performance of walls and floors in new-build houses and apartments. The scheme certifies that certain constructions are capable of being used as an alternative to sound insulation testing, to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of Approved Document E.
A Robust Detail is a separating wall or floor construction that is capable of consistently exceeding the performance standards given in Approved Document E, is practical to build on site and is reasonably tolerant of workmanship. Sound insulation testing of a number of examples of a construction is carried out before it can be approved as a Robust Detail. Robust Details Limited employs acoustic consultants to carry out inspections to monitor performance. Visual inspections are carried out on a sample of properties during construction, and sound insulation testing is also carried out on a sample of completed constructions.
TAN 11 is the current Welsh government guidance on general noise and planning policy. It was produced by the then Department of the Environment (Now DEFRA) in October 1997 and replaced Welsh Office circular 16/73. The document talks about general principles in relation to noise and planning, and provides general guidance on both noise sensitive and noise generative developments, including draft planning conditions dealing with noise. The main detailed guidance provided in TAN 11 is the Noise Exposure Categories for new residential developments.
TAN 11 uses four Noise Exposure Categories (A-D) for assessing the suitability of sites for new residential development. Category A being areas where noise need not be considered as a determining factor in granting permission, and Category D being where planning permission should normally be refused. A table of noise levels is provided for day and night time to assess which category the site falls in to. Different noise criteria are provided for road, rail, aircraft and mixed source noise, with the criteria having been derived from various social surveys for different noise sources.
Some detailed guidance is provided on the assessment of noise from a variety of sources, but this guidance generally refers to other documents for methods of assessment and criteria.
WHO Guidelines for Community Noise
The current World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for Community Noise were published in 1999. The guidelines deal with all aspects of environmental noise impact, and provide guideline values for community noise in specific environments. Most of the noise guidelines are given as period LAeq values, although LAmax values are given for some noise environments.
The WHO guidelines are based on analysis of research carried out around the world. The guidelines, whilst not having any legal force in the UK, have been used as the basis of UK guidelines such as BS 8233.
Community noise (also called environmental noise, residential noise or domestic noise) is defined as noise emitted from all sources except noise at the industrial workplace. Main sources of community noise include road, rail and air traffic; industries; construction and public work; and the neighbourhood. The main indoor noise sources are ventilation systems, office machines, home appliances and neighbours.
WHO Community Noise states that "..more than half of all European Union citizens is estimated to live in zones that do not ensure acoustical comfort to residents", "In contrast to many other environmental problems, noise pollution continues to grow and it is accompanied by an increasing number of complaints from people exposed to the noise. The growth in noise pollution is unsustainable because it involves direct, as well as cumulative, adverse health effects. It also adversely affects future generations, and has socio-cultural, aesthetic and economic effects."
In 2010, the WHO published Night Noise Guidelines for Europe. This document introduces a night noise target level, expressed as an annual average external noise level. An interim target is provided where it is not feasible to meet the target level.