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  • Samantha Hathway

Noise Control: In Construction

It seems that when it comes to construction, the only way truly is up. No visitor to the nation’s capital could ignore the amount of building work and high-rise construction that’s taking place amidst not only business districts but also along the banks of the River Thames. It’s not just London that’s seeing this investment, the nation as a whole is undergoing a renaissance of commercial premises and residential development, changing the fiscal as well as the visual landscape.

The Value of Construction to the Economy

The value of construction to the British economy is evident from Government figures; the Office for National Statistics data shows that figures reached record-breaking levels of £113,127 million by the end of 2018. This is reflected in the continued rise of the number of construction firms operating in the country, with another record-breaking 325,736 firms operating in Great Britain at this time, an increase of 3.5% (11,146) compared with the previous year.

Noise Pollution – a Cause for Concern

However good this is for the business and residential sectors, it does create another issue that needs to be addressed and controlled: noise pollution. Local authorities have the power to monitor and evaluate noise emissions from building sites, to ensure the health and wellbeing of surrounding communities. Being exposed to noise pollution is known to have a negative effect on mental and physical health, as well as delaying learning in children, so

mitigating noise levels is of paramount importance when considering construction sites. Noise affecting the surrounding community is an obvious concern, but the protection measures put in place also benefit the workforce. Data shows that in Great Britain, between 2017 and 2019 some 21,000 workers suffered work-related hearing loss, so it’s an important health and safety issue for developers.

Government Legislation

When it comes to controlling noise on construction sites and open site operations, developers and site operators need to adhere to several pieces of legislation and codes of practice, the key one being BS 5228. This British Standard sets out strict compliance measures to ensure noise emissions and vibration levels are kept within acceptable ranges; this is to protect the surrounding community that can include residential properties, businesses, schools and hospitals. It’s critical that sites are regularly assessed and managed to ensure they adhere to these regulations. Failure to do so can lead to the Local Authority putting an enforcement notice in place, shutting down the site until appropriate measures are put in place, meaning serious cost implications for the developer.

The scope of BS 5228

The code of practice is designed to:

· Set strict thresholds for noise and vibration levels

· Evaluate the impact of noise and vibration on the immediate community

· Act as a guide for predicting and measuring noise and vibration levels

· Recommend ways to control noise and vibration emitting from a site

· Encourage liaison between local authorities, developers and site operators

When it comes to the legislation that needs to be followed, the British Standard has been divided into two areas:

BS 5228-1:2009 ‘Code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction and open sites – part 1: noise’

This section provides guidance on how to predict, measure and mitigate noise levels. The following thresholds need to be adhered to:

Night time (11pm-7am)

Category A – 45 dB; Category B – 50 dB; Category C – 55 dB

Weekday evenings (7pm -11am) and weekends (1-11pm Saturdays and 7am-11pm Sundays)

Category A – 55 dB; Category B – 60 dB; Category C – 65 dB

Daytime (7am-7pm weekdays and 7am-1pm Saturdays)

Category A – 65 dB; Category B – 70 dB; Category C – 75 dB

These category values relate to ambient noise levels and noise emissions can take into account duration, distance, ground effects, screening by any obstacles and reflections from surfaces.

BS 5228-2:2009 ‘Code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction and open sites – part 2: vibration’

This section provides guidance on how to predict vibration levels from construction and open site operations. This annexe of the Act measures and assesses the impact on the immediate environment.

Control Measures Recommended in the Legislation

In order to minimise disruption due to noise emanating from the site, control measures recommended in the document include the following:

· Selecting optimal equipment for the project

· Regular plant and machine maintenance

· Ensuring equipment is operated according to manufacturer guidelines

· Using electrically powered compressors rather than petrol or diesel

· Installing a centralised generator system

· Utilising hydraulic or electric tools where possible

· Not running machinery when it’s not required for immediate use, or leaving it at idle wherever possible

· Careful phasing of the project

· Audible reversing alarms should be set to the minimum noise level possible, while still giving adequate warning to workers

· Installation of temporary sound barriers, these should be uniform, stable, of the correct height and width to shield surroundings and offer a 5-10 dB (A) degree of protection

· The use of resilient materials such as lining chutes to dampen the noise of materials being moved

· Enclosure panels should be kept shut

The importance of working with an Acoustic Consultant

As you can see, it’s imperative to remain compliant with the British Standard requirements. Not doing so can result in a site being closed down while appropriate remedial measures are put in place, with cost implications for equipment hire and having to pay an idle workforce. It’s therefore of paramount importance to work with an Acoustic Consultant and to do so at project inception.

A good Acoustic Consultancy will guide you through the planning and implementation of construction projects, and will use only the best sound level monitors and acoustic modelling software to ensure you control noise and vibration levels emitting from the site. Here at Auricl, we have a proven track record for providing commercial operations with clear, reliable advice, guiding developers and working with architects, planners and engineers to ensure a smooth construction journey, from planning to completion. Contact us 020 7859 4530 for the London office; for the Reading office call 0118 207 7324. Alternatively, you can get in touch at

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