Three years ago, we looked at the first steps any facility owner should take when they have a noise issue, but there’s no denying that the landscape of sound attenuation has changed in that time. Are the steps the same, or are there new rules to follow?
Facility noise problems can take various forms and can happen unexpectedly, causing disruptions that affect employees, productivity, and the community at large. Although every noise issue is unique, the confusion they cause for facility owners and engineers who struggle to find solutions is often the same.
The problem is obvious, but how to start fixing it can be less clear.
Having the right knowledge is crucial to protecting facility owners. The more you understand your equipment and facility when dealing with a noise problem, the easier it is to manage the costs and risks. However, finding a solution is rarely straightforward.
Mitigating noise problems can be more complex than they first seem. While standard noise solutions are available, making informed choices and integrating them into your building or process carefully is essential. In other words, it’s not just about picking the right physical components like barriers or silencers, or rushing to replace all your equipment. Each solution has its challenges during installation.
No matter which solution you pick, there are important factors to consider before committing to a noise reduction plan. The good news is that noise problems, although initially overwhelming, can be tackled with proper preparation and information gathering in five simple steps.
Step #1: Look for Expert Assistance
No matter how a noise issue arises, the first step is to hire a reputable acoustic consultant for a thorough analysis. The consultant will assess any equipment causing potential noise problems, compare noise levels with local regulations, and produce an Acoustic Assessment Report (AAR).
All mitigation efforts will be based on this report, so it’s crucial that the acoustic consultant be given the budget and scope to be thorough. Their analysis should encompass reduction requirements for each identified noise source across an eight-octave band frequency spectrum. Collaborating with a noise control supplier to explore mitigation options is also recommended to lay a foundation for determining the most practical and cost-effective solution.
Step #2: Avoid the temptation to budget too early
This step hasn’t changed a bit.
Once you know where the issues are, facility owners often jump head-first into budgeting. Most of the queries Parklane receives are from clients trying to determine how much their noise problem will cost to fix. However, having some key information before you start budgeting is crucial.
No matter which noise reduction plan you choose, it’s likely that you’ll need to make changes to your facility, big or small. So, treat noise reduction like any other construction project. Before you estimate the cost, understand the full scope of work required. If you don’t, you might end up with a much higher project cost than you initially planned.
To avoid unexpected costs, we recommend taking careful steps and evaluating everything before deciding on a noise reduction plan and budget.
Step #3: Know your options
When it comes to noise mitigation, you have several different options at your disposal. Common methods include:
- Operational change — Running mechanical equipment at a lower load or capacity to reduce its overall sound impact. This is typically carried out through the installation of a variable frequency drive to ensure mechanical equipment can operate based on demand levels rather than at a constant full Note that for this to be a valid solution, your acoustic consultant needs to take sound level readings at all varied operating levels. The change in operating levels must also be viable 365 days a year, as most ordinances are based on the worst-case condition.
- OEM Supplied Components — Some manufacturers offer after-market options such as low-noise fan blades, insulated casings, compressor blankets, and other add-ons to the equipment that will reduce operating sound levels. Ensure equipment OEMs that offer these solutions have supportive test data that they will stand behind.
- Equipment Relocation — If those impacted by the noise are on one side of the building, equipment can sometimes be relocated to another area where it will create less disturbance.
- Equipment Replacement or Decommissioning — If the equipment asset is nearing end-of-life, this may be an opportunity to replace it with a quieter unit. It also may be an opportunity to assess whether the equipment is needed for ongoing operations.
- Noise Control Provider — Firms such as Parklane design custom noise attenuation components to integrate into sites at or around the noise source. These retrofit noise control systems can include elements such as acoustic louvers, silencers, or noise barriers.
Before choosing the right option for your business, it’s important to ensure that your solution will both fix the noise problem and not create another problem.
Mitigating your noise issue will not help if the solution impacts your facility’s critical processes. Before deciding on which strategy is best for you, we recommend you gather information to make an informed decision on the most practical path forward.
Step #4: Understand your facility
Regardless of the noise attenuation solution you choose, it’s important to understand your facility fully. How your equipment performs, the function it serves and its utility in satisfying your building or organization’s operational needs, the characteristics of your facility structure itself, and logistical constraints such as where heavy equipment will need to be positioned, will all have an impact on the cost of the project and the time required to complete it.
You should also be prepared to produce basic design information about your facility. Namely, structural and mechanical details for the areas/equipment impacted by mitigation. In the absence of this information, Parklane can offer an initial engineered design service that resolves all critical design details necessary to facilitate a final sound attenuation solution.
Step #5: Find the right provider with the right solution
Don’t rush to apply a quick fix. Once the issue has been evaluated and your preferred mitigation strategy is chosen, you need to find the right solution provider. Consulting a firm specializing in comprehensive noise reduction solutions, such as Parklane, is recommended for general advice. These firms handle everything from designing solutions to fabricating and installing them, making them suitable for many different options.
When selecting a sound attenuation vendor, ensure you are selecting a provider that takes a holistic, collaborative approach to delivering facility sound attenuation. Most importantly, ensure they understand the project objectives thoroughly and will guarantee the results you are looking for. These assurances will reduce long-term risks, lower project costs, and address potential future liability concerns.