With increasing prevalence of noise pollution in the community, it is important to know what noise pollution is, how it can negatively impact your family, and how you can deal with it in your own neighbourhood.
Noise pollution impacts lives around Australia on a daily basis, and is particularly problematic for those living in our metropolitan suburbs. In New South Wales alone, there are over 2,000 noise complaints made to the Police every weeki. Indeed noise pollution appears to be creating a bigger bang now than ever before, with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) receiving more complaints than in the pasti.
The NSW EPA classifies noise pollution in five broad categoriesii:
- Commercial noise (including industrial factory noise and loud music from pubs and clubs);
- Transport noise (noisy vehicles, aircraft, boating vessels and rail transport);
- Construction noise (both road and building construction);
- Public sporting and entertainment noise, and
- Neighbourhood noise (noise from residential premises, animal noise, barking dogs, power tools, loud music, air conditioners, pool pumps and alarms).
Traffic noise appears to be the most common source of noise discomfort for Australians. In a wide-ranging 2004 report that investigated residential noise pollution in Australia, 46 percent of respondents said that they experience traffic noise problems at a level that adversely impacts on their quality of lifeiii. The second most common noise problem impacting life at home came from barking dogs, with more than one-in-three households complaining of noisy neighbourhood pooches.
Managing noise: restrictions
There are laws that dictate what levels of noise are acceptable, but everyone also has their own idea of what is a reasonable level of noise and the times it should be tolerated and when it shouldn'tiv.
Most neighbourhoods have restrictions on noise during certain hours of the day. Each state and local council defines times of the day when noise must not be heard in a "habitable room" of a neighbouringv. If you can hear noise from a neighbouring property from within your home during these restricted hours, you are within your rights to make a formal noise complaint to the appropriate authority within your regionv.
And while that may provide comfort to those experiencing problems with temporary neighbourhood noise, the most common source of noise pollution is from something we have little control over: traffic noise. 70% of Victorian residents claim that they can hear traffic noise from within the walls of their homesvi.
Measures you can take
The good news is that appropriate planning and design of homes can substantially reduce the impact of traffic noisevii. This can be achieved through the incorporation of barriers, sound absorbent materials and a home design that seeks to reduce the transfer of sound.
Barriers: The placement of screens - such as fences, trees and hedges - between noise sources and your home can make substantial noise reductionsvii. The choice of glass used in windows has also been found to make a difference: double-glazing glass can reduce traffic noise by up to 57 percent compared to standard single-glazed glassviii. If noise is a particular problem for your home, you can install special noise-reducing window glass.
Sound Absorbent Materials: Making use of sound absorbent materials both on external and internal walls can reduce noise inside a building. Heavy, dense materials such as masonry or brick walls are better for sound reductionix, but there are also lightweight solutions available, such as in-wall insulation.
Home Design: Planning ahead when designing your home or undertaking any renovations can make a difference to the impact noise will have on your everyday living. When allocating space, consider placing driveways and garages away from bedrooms and living rooms. Likewise, making bedrooms and quiet living spaces further away from noise sources such as main roads may reduce the impact of such noisevii.
Protecting your home from noise pollution is just one way of maintaining your level of comfort at home. In dealing with noise pollution it's important to remember that what may be music to your ears may not be music to your neighbours'.
i Environment Protection Authority NSW, State of the Environment 2012, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/soe/soe2012/chapter1/chp_1.1.htm
ii NSW Department of Environment and Heritage, Reporting Pollution: Contacts for Noise Pollution, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/pollution/noise.htm
iii Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW), Neighbourhood Noise Survey 2004, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/noise/nnresearch/index.htm
iv Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW), Noise: Dealing with neighbourhood noise, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/noise/neighbourhoodnoise.htm
v EPA Victoria, Noise: Prohibited times for residential noise, http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/your-environment/noise/residential-noise/prohibited-times-for-residential-noise
vi EPA Victoria, Noise: 2007 Noise Surveys, http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/your-environment/noise/2007-noise-surveys
vii Commonwealth of Australia, Your Home Technical Manual: 2.7 Noise Control, http://www.yourhome.gov.au/technical/pubs/fs27.pdf
viii Commonwealth of Australia, Your Home Technical Manual: 2.7 Noise Control - Pilkingtons - http://www.yourhome.gov.au/technical/pubs/fs27.pdf
ix Australian Academy of Science, Quiet Please! Fighting noise pollution, http://www.science.org.au/nova/072/072key.html