Passive Design

Designing the building and the spaces within it to benefit from natural light, ventilation and even temperatures.

Controlling noise through design and layout

The impact of noise can be reduced through building layout and other design elements.

Where noise cannot be controlled at source, good design can help to reduce its impact. It is important to consider noise control from the beginning of the design project.

Consider all potential sources of noise from both outside and inside the home, and consider all potential sound paths – including direct paths (for example, through doors and windows) and indirect paths (for example, when sound is deflected off walls, or passes through minor gaps in walls, or passes around obstructions such as fences).

Also consider both airborne noise (such as noise from traffic and stereos) and impact noise (such as slamming doors or footsteps in a floor above), and the impacts of reverberation from hard surfaces.

Controlling noise

Key strategies include: controlling noise at source; increasing distance from the noise source; closing potential sound paths (such as openings in walls facing sources of noise); and using mass, insulation or buffering to block the noise.

Adding sound control features to a building retrospectively can be expensive, so where possible, aim to control sound at its source. For example:

  • use quieter appliances
  • minimise vibration noise by placing appliances on rubber pads or proprietary anti-vibration mounts
  • install sound-absorbent surfaces in rooms that are potential sources of noise such as laundries, children’s playrooms, and rooms where loud music or games may be played.

Where noise cannot be controlled at source:

  • increase the distance between the noise and the location where it will be heard – for example, locate the building as far as possible from a noisy street frontage
  • use zones to control noise, by grouping noisy or quiet activity spaces together
  • don’t locate windows or doors towards sources of noise
  • avoid direct and flanking sound paths by off-setting doors and windows from noise sources
  • provide a buffer space or spaces between quiet and noisy spaces – for example, by locating a wardrobe between bedrooms
  • incorporate mass into external walls to block external noise, or use fencing or earth mounding
  • use sound-attenuating exterior walls or sound-insulated interior partitions to control noise

Noise control should be considered alongside other factors such as orientation for passive heating and cooling, views, privacy, and ventilation. Compromises may be necessary, for example if opening windows are needed for ventilation or solar access on a wall facing a source or noise.

Zone planning for known external sources of noise 
Zone planning for known external sources of noise

When designing a home, locate noise-sensitive rooms such as studies and bedrooms away from noisy activity spaces such as the laundry and garage, and away from sources of external noise such as roads. The least noise-sensitive space such as the garage and laundry can be located closer to source of noise where they will also provide a buffer zone. Internal wall may also be constructed using a proprietary acoustic wall construction system utilising double studs, resilient channels, multiple layers of linings and sound absorbing insulation.

Zoning in most easily achieved with new houses, but it may be possible to re-allocate rooms or make suitable alterations in existing houses. When you’re considering zoning for noise, you must also consider orientation for sun, views and wind.