According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) after air pollution, traffic noise is the single largest environmental problem facing Europe, causing more than 60,000 premature deaths each year.
This is something recognised on this side of the channel with a series of major new government initiatives launched in the last year to address the worst cases of noise pollution.
“The impact of noise on health and well-being is perhaps more difficult to quantify than other forms of pollution. It manifests itself in increased stress and proving a linear link is more difficult, which is why perhaps so little progress has been made to date in addressing it”, says Mark Norcliffe, Sales Director, Cornwall Glass.
“There, however, seems to have been a real shift in awareness in the last few years. New understanding shows that noise pollution can be severely damaging to health, leading to high blood pressure, heart problems and the increased risk of a stroke or even diabetes.
“With this improved understanding and with government under pressure to address the risks, architects and specifiers paying far more attention to the impact of noise pollution and introducing efforts through more innovative design and retro-fit to bring a little more peace and quiet to the UK’s noise plagued population.”
Closer to home, here in the UK, this has manifest itself in the launch of a series of new initiatives from increased focus on ‘urban sound planning’ in the design and development of new city-spaces, through to noise reducing retrofits.
This includes Highways England’s programme of noise reducing retrofits in more than 1,000 locations throughout the UK which it has identified as noise blighted. Anyone living in these areas can apply for funding from a £39million pot to carry out noise insulating home improvements to their properties. This includes replacement windows, doors and bi-folding doors.
“The funding is only available in certain parts of the UK but already 600 homes have had their windows replaced. And there are other similar schemes around airports. They don’t cover all areas only the worst effected ones.
“The point is that there is a far greater awareness of the impact of noise pollution and increasing demand for building products which reduce its impact.
“The industry has also played its part in raising awareness of the benefits that acoustic glazing can deliver and the flexibility to deliver it in combination with Low E glass”, continues Mark.
“Saint Gobain, in particular is worth mention. Its’ Planitherm campaign has been highly effective in reaching out to end-users, simplifying glass and promoting energy efficient products in combination with specialist coatings and laminates, including acoustic glass, Planitherm Comfort and Comfort Plus being the case in point.”
Soundproofing works in three ways – or combination of them. The first is to stop the noise by adding mass to the structure to reflect sound. The second is through absorption, where the sound is absorbed by a material preventing it passing through to the other side, for example wall insulation.
The third is to create a barrier between one structure and another, which stops the sound passing between them in the form of vibration, effectively creating a gap which the vibrations can’t ‘jump’.
“Sound insulation is only ever as good as its weakest point. You can build thicker walls or stuff them with as much insulation as you want but unless you’re windows are also up to scratch, the sound is still going to pass through”, says Mark.
He adds: “This makes acoustic and sound insulating glazing a key growth market for 2019 and beyond.”
Mark, however, warns that the industry’s approach to selling acoustic glazing requires a little more refinement. “It can be painful. You see these ads claiming that standard triple-glazing will reduce noise pollution and you just know its impact is going to be minimal.
“Yet there’s a really positive message here. If you work on the basis that you can half the amount of sound passing through a specific IGU if you increase the sound reduction indices by 10db glazing can have a massive impact on noise reduction.
“Acoustic and sound insulative glass do this by using different thicknesses of glass in combination; through acoustic interlayers and through the adaptation of spacing within the unit.
“If you can communicate that to the end user and explain how it works, it’s an opportunity to add real value to your offer and command a higher price”, Mark continues.
Acoustic glass limits noise pollution through the deflection and dissipation of soundwaves. It does this through a combination of glass thickness, the use of acoustic interlayers and the space between the glass, the variables of which disrupt the soundwave.
“In general the rule is the thicker the glass the better but this also needs to be set at different thicknesses. It’s why simply adding a third pane to a unit will only have a limited impact in reducing noise.
“Sound passes through objects in a linear direction. Using different thickness of glass in combination means that units are more effective in disrupting and dissipating sound. It’s a more technical proposition to the homeowner but it gets across why acoustic glazing carries a higher price.
“The use of PVB interlayers adds to that story. Explaining how it dampens down the soundwaves, again conveys to the end user that they’re buying a technically advanced product”, Mark continues.
“There is also an opportunity to build on the awareness generated by Document Q and using P1A laminated glass to offer acoustic laminate as an additional upgrade, delivering enhanced security but also improving noise insulation at the same time.
“The increasing demand that we’re seeing for over-sized units adds another dimension. As an IGU supplier, we’re developing some very specific areas of specialism, which mean we can support installers in maximising opportunities that new generation glass products are delivering.
“The pitch is far more technical but ultimately, higher margin. In a second time replacement market I’m always surprised that window companies don’t push it harder because as far as I can see, it delivers a real point of differentiation and reason to upgrade.”
With three state of the art IGU manufacturing facilities throughout the South West, Cornwall Glass supplies tens of thousands of IGUs each year. It’s acoustic offer is built around Stadip Silence from Saint Gobain.
This uses an interlayer specially developed by the float glass manufacturer to suppress noise at the specific resonant frequency of glass, achieving an airborne sound insulation index value of 54dB. “It does this without using an overly thick combination of glass”, says Mark, so you’re not putting unnecessary weight into units.
“It also delivers very even sound insulation across the frequency range, doing all of this without distorting transparency.”
“There are opportunities in secondary glazing, commercial sound insulation. The increased awareness of the impact noise pollution has the potential to have on our wider health, is generating a significant and growing market for acoustic glass, with the potential to replicate the demand for energy efficient products – if we sell it well.”