You’ve heard about it — no pun intended. You’ve read about it, and if you’ve been in the business for more than a minute, you’ve probably already dealt with it.
As an acoustic engineer at one of the top manufacturers of recycled rubber fitness flooring in the world, I hear it on a weekly basis: You’re making too much noise and you need an effective solution immediately, or you will be forced to move or close.
In order to effectively tackle this problem, here’s what you’ll need to understand:
“Noise” is a subjective term. Think about it. Noise literally means unwanted sound. Translation: You are bothering your neighbors. Bothered people are agitated people. Agitated people, like bees, can quickly become aggressive. If you don’t act immediately to diffuse the situation, your neighbors will become your enemies, and you will suddenly have a problem on your hands. So, be understanding, respectful and responsive. Take a tip from those parents who hand out goody bags to their neighbors on flights. This will buy you time to look into acoustic solutions and try them.
You will likely encounter two types of sound transmission problems: airborne and structure-borne. Each needs to be handled in a very different way. If people are complaining about the music being too loud or people grunting and screaming, you have an airborne sound problem. If anyone complains about thumps, vibrations or rattling, you’ve got a structure-borne problem.
QUESTION: What is the speed of sound?
ANSWER: Airborne sound travels at about 1,130 feet per second. Structure-borne sound travels much faster at 15,000 feet per second.
TAKEAWAY: Airborne sound is manageable. Structure-borne sound is REALLY difficult to control. Do everything you can to prevent this acoustic energy from entering the structure of your building.
Fixing an airborne sound transmission problem is doable. Typical solutions include:
– Adding fibrous material (insulation or acoustic panels) to absorb sound.
– Making sure everything is airtight. Sound is as pervasive as light. If there’s any opening that light could penetrate, you can be sure sound will also. Make sure that any holes or gaps, such as recessed lighting fixtures and other common penetrations in walls/ceiling/floors are sealed with an acoustical caulk.
– Adding more mass, like another layer of gypsum board, to the walls or ceilings.
Vibration and/or structure-borne sound transmission is going to be much more challenging to address. Depending on what you’re dealing with, you may need to look into:
– Upgrading your rubber flooring. Ecore has patented and engineered solutions including dual density and elevated tiles that help dissipate excessive structure-borne energy.
– Hiring an acoustical consultant to conduct some field surveys. Not only can they properly assess the extent of the sound transmission problem, but they’ll be able to point out any simple fixes that could result in a significant improvement immediately. They’ll also be able to steer you in the direction of an engineered solution.
– Hiring a structural engineer to look at your building. Are your spans stiff enough? Are they overly stiff? Is there anything that can be done to decouple (a fancy word for isolate) the impact zone from the rest of the structure?
Just because you don’t have a degree in physics or acoustical engineering doesn’t mean you can’t understand the basics. Many people are intimidated by architectural acoustics simply because they aren’t familiar with it. As a result, they tend to shy away and leave everything in the hands of the engineers and technical consultants. While it’s awesome to respect what engineers do, don’t forget that this is your business, your livelihood, your dream. Be invested and don’t be afraid to make sure you’re getting the best service you can.
For example, standard acoustical tests with IIC and STC ratings were developed for multifamily dwellings where people don’t want to hear the tapping footsteps or TV of their upstairs neighbors. Those types of tests and associated product ratings aren’t sufficient for tire flips or 315-pound Clean and Jerks. Make sure your engineer is conducting a field survey that mimics realistic conditions in order to yield realistic results. Make sure the flooring you purchase has been tested accordingly. In the U.S., the only existing standard test method for impact sound uses a lightweight tapping machine. In Europe and Japan, they’ve gotten a little further and have incorporated heavier impact sources, but nothing in over a ball the approximate weight of a small child.
At Ecore, we’ve been conducting heavier impact testing on our recycled rubber flooring with actual dumbbells, plate weights (100 pounds) and trained athletes. We are committed to providing acoustically-sound and performance-improving solutions for everything from that Olympic Clean and Jerk to your mama’s Zumba class.
By Sharon Paley. Sharon is an acoustic engineer at Ecore, a company that transforms reclaimed waste into unique performance surfacing. Ecore has been manufacturing recycled rubber surfacing for nearly 30 years. To learn more about their fitness flooring visit: http://ecoreathletic.com/.