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  • Samantha Hathway

Acoustics & The Convenience Store

Acoustics in the Supermarket

The rapid spread of convenience stores across the UK passed under many people’s radars, as our shopping habits

gradually reverted back to the ’little and often’ format that pre-dated fridges and microwaves.

The supermarket industry responded accordingly and for several years these smaller stores have been the main focus of development of the big players - as opposed to the large, clunky, politically-tricky superstores.

There are now over 46,000 convenience stores across the country (about half of which is made up of independents and petrol stations) in a sector currently worth almost £38bn and still expanding, with this value predicted to exceed £44bn by 2020.

So, what’s the link with acoustics? Well, to maximise on the ’convenience’ bit, the stores obviously have to be located near to their target market – us. This can often see a store located in a quiet residential area, or in a parade of shops (often with flats above), or in a new retail unit at the foot of a new block of flats.

With the industry continuing to expand, more stores will pop up in more creative locations, so let’s take a look at some of the ongoing acoustic challenges:

Building Services Equipment

As a customer, you rarely see the back-of-house ‘kit’ that cools the sales floor, back-of-house staff areas and (most importantly) the food, but it normally involves a few whirring machines tucked away to the rear of the unit, or on the roof.

The kit switches on and off, and ramps up and down, and some of it can do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - so acoustic analysis and attenuation of the equipment is required on a site-by-site basis, to ensure no noise nuisance is caused to any local residents, whose lounge, bedroom or balcony may overlook it.


Cooling equipment usually involves a rotating element, which when rigidly attached to a party wall or ceiling transmits vibration, in the form of a low frequency rumble, into the space next door.

If the neighbour is sensitive (which many residents can be at 5am), then this is likely to be a problem.

Proper consideration of the equipment and use of vibration isolation mounts can solve the issue, but be careful not to overlook other connections which may transmit vibration into the structure, such as pipes and access gantries.


Deliveries can arrive via various vehicle types – large and small – and take place at various times throughout the day, although the overall delivery slot is usually limited by the local authority as part of the planning permission.

The final part of the delivery’s journey often involves a short push in a wheeled cage from the van/lorry across the pavement and into the store. As such, the delivery drop-off point needs to be considered and potentially located on the noisier side of the store to limit the noise impact – although on a busy main road, this can cause traffic issues.

Internal Activities

Typical store activities are relatively quiet, although they do require consideration and attenuation measures where a sensitive use is in the same building, particularly if early morning deliveries take place in areas directly beneath residential flats.

As the number of stores continues to multiply, consideration of acoustic issues will be paramount to ensure your local shop is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and not an inconvenience to its neighbours.

The author (Nicholas Jones) has been involved with over 200 successful new convenience stores across the UK during the feasibility, planning, design and operation stages.

Check out our architectural and building services acoustics capabilities.

Happy shopping!

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