To help develop this article, click ‘Edit this article’ above.
The government defines three levels of noise:
- No observed effect level – the level of noise exposure where there is no effect on health or the quality of life.
- Lowest observed effect level – adverse effects on health and the quality of life can be detected at this level.
- Significant observed adverse effect level – the level of noise exposure where there can be significant effects on health and quality of life.
The degree of disturbance caused by noise depends on properties such as:
- Frequency. High and low pitches tend to be more disturbing than middle frequencies.
- ‘Normal’ background noise levels.
- Information content. For example speech is more likely to be disturbing than noise containing less information.
- The time of day. People tend to be more sensitive to noise at night, when they may be trying to sleep and there is likely to be less background noise.
- The general sensitivity of individuals.
The Noise Policy Statement for England (NPSE) is intended to promote good health and a good quality of life through the effective management of noise. It applies to all types of noise other than noise in the workplace. The NPSE define noise pollution as:
- Environmental noise – which includes noise from transportation sources.
- Neighbour noise – which includes noise from inside and outside buildings.
- Neighbourhood noise – which includes noise arising from industrial and entertainment premises, trade and businesses, construction sites and noise in the street.
Noise pollution can potentially contribute to:
- Hearing impairment.
- Startle and defence reactions.
- Ear pain or discomfort.
- Speech interference.
- Sleep disturbance.
- Cardiovascular effects.
- Annoyance, anger and frustration.
These effects in turn can lead to:
- Tension or anxiety.
- Decreased performance.
- Reduced productivity.
- Eardrum damage or hearing difficulties.
- Increased blood pressure or stress levels.
- Psychological damage.
Wider effects can include:
- Economic impacts such as decreasing property value and loss of productivity.
- Social impacts such as sickness or absenteeism.
- Vibrations induced by sound waves can cause structural damage to buildings.
Noise disturbance has become a more common problem as a result of industrialisation, urbanisation and the rapid increase in the number of household appliances, devices, equipment and alarms. However, greater awareness in planning and improved standards of construction can help mitigate potential noise problems.
The noise profile of an area should be considered when designing and constructing buildings. The local topography, the location of buildings, their orientation and construction should be planned strategically to minimise the potential impact of noise disturbance, either on the development, between different parts of the development or caused by the development.
Construction noise assessments may be carried out, and real-time noise may be monitored on site. Construction noise can be reduced by restricting hours of working and changing construction methodologies. It can be beneficial to carry out noise surveys before development commences so that a baseline condition is established, and complaints procedures should be established. BS5228 is the ‘code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction and open sites’.
Planning permissions may include conditions intended to reduce noise nuisance, and the building regulations part E sets minimum standards for design and construction in relation to the resistance to the passage of sound. In addition, projects that require environmental impact assessments may require specific noise studies.
- Loud music, TV or radio.
- Parties or other entertainment.
- Pubs, clubs and entertainment venues.
- Building and DIY work at unreasonable times of the day.
- Constant dog barking.
- Car and burglar alarms.
Local authorities can serve a legal notice on the person responsible for the noise. If the noise problem persists they may be given a fixed penalty notice or taken to court and fined up to £5000. They can also apply for a Warrant of Entry which allows officers to seize noise-making equipment.
Individuals can take independent action by complaining directly to the Magistrates' Court under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Acoustic consultant.
- Airborne sound.
- Approved Document E.
- Building acoustics.
- Building Bulletin 93: acoustic design of schools.
- Complaining about construction sites.
- Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
- Deed of easement.
- Environmental health.
- Environmental impact assessment.
- Flanking sound.
- Planning condition.
- Pre-completion sound testing.
- Property development and music.
- Impact sound.
- Intruder alarm.
- Reverberation time.
- Robust details certification scheme.
- Sound absorption.
- Sound frequency.
- Sound insulation.
- Sound v noise.
- Structure-borne sound.
- What hours are construction sites allowed to operate?
Featured articles and news
CEOs and high-level executives explain who they expect to be the most successful players in the future of construction.
What are package contracts and how are they broken down? Find out in our introductory article.
Identifying sustainable shoreline protection solutions in the face of rising sea levels and storms in the US.
Budget documents state modern methods of construction will be favoured for public infrastructure schemes from 2019.
A walk-through exhibition of an emergency humanitarian shelter is officially opened at BRE's Innovation Park.
How to work safely on a construction site during winter.
Housing is the big winner in Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Budget.
The winner of our BSRIA competition, Tomorrow's challenges in today's buildings, is.... Bob Hendrikx. A big thank you to everyone that took part.
Committee of MPs accuses government of dealing billpayers a 'bad hand' over the guaranteed power price.
In 1992, the Joint Fire Code was first published. What influence does it still have on construction sites today?
"Companies will have to adapt or go out of business" - how are virtual reality and big data disrupting digital construction?
International Well Building Institute and BRE collaborate on multiple levels to advance human health through better buildings.
"The industry has tried moving away from prescriptivism to focus on performance, but maybe that’s no longer working".