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Editorial Feature

Acoustic Insulation Panels in Residential and Commercial Buildings

Modern living is inherently noisy. Passing traffic, heavy machinery, construction, airplanes overhead, and loud entertainment venues. All these noise pollution sources can have a significant impact on the health of urban residents and workers.

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Acoustic insulation is essential to safeguard people against the deleterious effects of noise and is commonly used in residential and commercial structures. This article will explore acoustic insulation and the different types of materials and solutions available on the market.

The Problem With Noise Pollution

The pace of development in the 20th and 21st centuries has been nothing short of astonishing, with urban centers rapidly expanding to encompass vast swathes of land and provide housing and commercial buildings for a growing and urbanizing global population.

However, this rapid growth and development has created an immense environmental burden, with pollution an ever-present issue for residents, city planners, industry, and governments alike. Aside from air pollution from traffic fumes and industry and water pollution, noise pollution can significantly impact the physical and mental health of residents and workers, with city dwellers especially vulnerable. Effects of noise pollution can include loss of sleep, hearing impairment, cardiovascular problems, mental health issues, and reduced productivity. Some groups are more vulnerable than others to the effects of noise pollution, such as children, the elderly, shift workers, chronically ill individuals, and the less affluent who cannot afford proper acoustic insulation in their homes. The UN has identified urban noise pollution as one of today's top emerging environmental threats.

Acoustic Insulation: An Overview

Acoustic insulation protects inhabitants of buildings against exposure to excessive noise levels. It also reduces sound transmission and the level of vibrations passing through the building, promoting comfort for domestic residents and people working in commercial buildings. Acoustic insulation can be installed in a new building before residents and workers move in or retrofitted to existing structures to improve the health and well-being of those using it. Different types of insulation are used to provide individual benefits for both residents and the structures themselves. Acoustic wall insulation is installed in internal and external walls to reduce interior and exterior noise levels. Internal noise includes loud entertainment systems in apartments, while external noise includes sources such as traffic and construction. Acoustic ceiling insulation is commonly installed in apartments, basements, car parks, and commercial buildings. This type of insulation mitigates the impact of noise and vibrations on buildings. Acoustic floor insulation is additionally used to reduce sound transfer between building levels, which is especially useful in high rise buildings, for example. As well as protecting residents' and workers’ health, acoustic insulation (otherwise known as soundproofing) is commonly installed in buildings where companies want to mitigate the impact of their activities on the surrounding area. Entertainment venues and recording studios are examples of commercial buildings that use acoustic insulation as a standard.

Exploring the Types of Acoustic Insulation on the Market

As well as the three common acoustic insulation types discussed, several insulation products are on the market today. Soundproofed windows and doors use decoupling to reduce sound transmission. Acoustic fabrics are commonly used in cinemas. Acoustic foam is a standard feature of recording studios and music rooms. Open cell cavity insulation, decoupling products such as acoustic hangers and resilient channels, and acoustic isolation membranes are also available on the market, with several innovative products emerging in recent years. Acoustiblok Isolation Membrane, for instance, is an incredibly lightweight and thin acoustic membrane made of flexible and easy-to-install polymer. This material has the benefit of not adding excessive weight to a wall. Typical materials used in open-cell cavity insulation include stone wool, mineral wool, rock wool, and fiberglass. This type of insulation is designed to absorb sound by fitting snugly between ceilings, floor, and wall studs, packing out any airspace through which sound could transfer.

Pros and Cons of Different Types of Acoustic Insulation

Different types of acoustic insulation and materials work best in other applications and scenarios, each with its individual pros and cons. Fiberglass, for example, is a versatile and easy-to-cut material commonly used in soundproofing. It is suitable for various frequency ranges but requires specialist protective gear when handling due to its nature as an irritant. Acoustic mineral wool cavity insulation is rigid yet easy to cut. It is an affordable, natural material resistant to moisture and fire; however, like fiberglass, it needs protective equipment to handle. To be effective on its own, thick layers of the material are required. External acoustic absorber panels are a specialist product made of recycled glass beads, a hydrophobic material that overcomes problems with external moisture. They are also non-combustible and chemically inert but are relatively expensive (though their benefits may outweigh their price, depending on cost considerations). Soundproof drywall, commonly from gypsum board and steel, is a highly effective specialist option and uses increased density and mass to block acoustic transmission. However, it is quite expensive and requires professional installation. Anti-vibration soundproof mats are a simple option that blocks vibrations and noise from commercial and industrial machinery; however, they require other soundproofing methods to be truly effective. Acoustic sealants are easy to apply, eco-friendly, and cost-effective but are more of a complementary solution. Acoustic wall coverings are an innovative, flexible, durable, and easy-to-apply hybrid material composite, but they are prohibitively expensive compared to other established options. Acoustic glass and doors are sturdy and effective solutions, but again, they are relatively expensive, which may hinder their use when cost is a consideration.

Summary

Noise pollution and everyday sounds in urban areas are a particular problem for residents and workers, facilitating the need for effective acoustic insulation solutions. Several products have emerged to tackle this growing public health issue in recent years. Depending on the application or scenario, some types of insulation or specific materials may be more appropriate than others, which requires expert knowledge and planning to choose the optimal option. 

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References and Further Reading 

Rockwool. Acoustic Insulation. [Online] Rockwool. Available at: 

Rachal, M (2022) Urban noise pollution is a top environmental threat: UN report [Online]. Smartcitiesdive. Available at: 

Acousticblok (2020). 30 Types of Soundproofing Materials Explained. [Online] Acousticblok. Available at: 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

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Written by

Reginald Davey

Reg Davey is a freelance copywriter and editor based in Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Writing for AZoNetwork represents the coming together of various interests and fields he has been interested and involved in over the years, including Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences, and Environmental Science.

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