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Keep it quiet

When sound becomes noise, it can have a serious impact on health, wellbeing and productivity. James Saunders, General Manager of Enfield Speciality Doors, explains how acoustic doors can be used to tackle this ‘forgotten pollutant’.

During lockdown, one thing that many people observed was how noticeably quieter the world was. We’d become used to the background hum of traffic noises, voices, ringing phones, business and industry, and only when it was gone did we realise how quiet, quiet could be. 

The World Health Organisation has labelled noise as the second biggest environmental issue after air pollution, so it should be properly considered when specifying or designing new buildings and if you’re managing fit-out or refurbishment projects. 

One way to control the travel of sound in a building to protect occupants is through the correct specification of acoustic doors.

What is an acoustic door?
An acoustic door is an entrance or internal door made from materials specifically designed to keep sound in or out of a space. The door is fitted with an acoustic seal to ensure sound doesn’t travel through the gap around the door slab and the frame. An entry level acoustic door will insulate against sounds of 35 decibels and above. A dishwasher running can generate around 60 decibels of sound, while traffic creates around 70 decibels of noise. 

Acoustic doors are ideal for use in a range of spaces including schools, universities, hospitals, factories, offices and mixed-use buildings. Anywhere where sound needs to be kept out – or kept in! 

For example, specifiers may want to choose an acoustic door for the kitchen area in an open plan office to ensure workers aren’t disrupted while their colleagues are on a break. Similarly, the door to a board or interview room in the same office may want to keep the sound of the ‘shop floor’ out as well as keeping conversations in the board room private, so sound shouldn’t travel in or out.

Additional functionality
Depending on the layout of the building, acoustic doors may need to serve other purposes as well as reducing the travel of sound, such as incorporating security and fire protection. It’s best to use a specialist manufacturer for doors that need to meet multiple requirements, as the specification and materials used can act against each other. For example, steel reinforcements can be used to enhance security performance, but metal carries sound more than softer materials – which in turn may be flammable! And the weight of acoustic doors also needs to be considered – seals and materials can make them too heavy to open, contravening health and safety laws unless the spec is adjusted accordingly. 

Glass panels
Glass panels offer improved visibility in or out of a room for a normal entrance or internal door, and this feature can be incorporated into an acoustic door – but with some limitations. Fitting a glass panel has an impact on the door’s performance so the size and the type of glass matters. This requires careful consideration, particularly where the door needs to have both acoustic and fire certifications and should be made by a specialist door manufacturer.

A holistic approach to noise
Sound travels through walls, floors, ceilings and structural supports, so acoustic doors are only part of the solution to a noise problem. To complete sound proofing specification, consider the use of acoustic wall panels and ceiling panels which deflect sound back into a room, or fitting flooring which absorbs noise and vibrations. For new builds or complete remodelling projects, acoustic bricks (made from foam and fabric) could also be incorporated into the overall design.

Beautiful aesthetics
Acoustic doors can be manufactured in a range of materials, colours and finishes to ensure that these functional, practical doors can also match the interior design of a building and further enhance the space. It is important to note that adding hardware can affect acoustic performance if it breaches the layers designed to control the sound. Ideally, specify the hardware with the door so the manufacturer can supply correctly fitted and rated hardware without compromising performance.

Stamp of quality
To help specifiers, architects and facilities managers choose high quality acoustic doors, we recommend looking for Quiet Mark approval. Quiet Mark is an independent global certification programme associated with the UK Noise Abatement Society. Quiet Mark identifies the quietest products in multiple categories in many sectors and the certification is awarded to products that promote “quietness”.

In addition to its consumer work with major retailers, Quiet Mark works alongside NBS, a leading construction data and specification platform, to help specifiers find the quietest appliance technology and acoustic materials available on the market to support people’s health and wellbeing.

Acoustic doors offer many advantages to specifiers looking for noise reduction as part of a wider strategy to provide quieter work, learning or leisure spaces. With much to consider, working with a specialist door manufacturer to get the specification absolutely right will maximise the performance of the door and ensure happier, healthier spaces.

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