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What is acoustic testing? A full guide.

May 15, 2024

Sustainability and building compliance expert. Specialising in low energy design, SAP, SBEM, BREEAM, and air testing for the construction industry,

Andrew Sadler

Wondering what acoustic testing is and how it relates to your building project? Read our latest blog and find out more about sound insulation. 

Acoustic testing is an important part of the journey to tick all the building regulations boxes – aka, achieving the necessary steps to produce a property that is safe, comfortable and environmentally conscious.

Sound insulation is a fundamental factor when it comes to the quality of life within a residential building. High levels of sound within a building can quickly lead to a challenging – even unbearable – home life, whereas excellent soundproofing can increase levels of comfort, relaxation and wellbeing tenfold. In addition, sound insulation is a major part of building regulations: if you’re building or renovating, it’s safe to assume that your sound test will be required by law.

What is acoustic testing? Acoustic testing evaluates sound insulation between separate parts of a building and is used to prove compliance with Part E of Building Regulations. The aim of acoustic testing is to minimise the passage of sound between adjoining buildings or rooms within one building.

We’ve collated a simple guide to shed light on acoustic testing, why it is important and the factors that impact your results. Read on to find out more.


Why is acoustic testing important?

Acoustic testing is an important part of the building process as it ensures privacy, a better quality of life for inhabitants and regulatory compliance.

You’ve likely experienced a home where you can hear the traffic thundering outside, can pick up word for word a conversation in the next room (even with the doors closed) and maybe even the sound of a neighbour clattering round in the kitchen The reality is that this is not a recipe for a happy, calm home. In fact, noise pollution has been proven to contribute to mental health: if a person feels unable to control the amount of noise in their environment, they may find their nervous system fires up leading to irritability, frustration and anger. Therefore – by completing acoustic testing on a residential property – you can ensure that you are creating a home that will genuinely enhance relaxation and rest.

Acoustic testing is also important as it contributes to privacy for inhabitants. Afterall, no one wants their private conversations heard by the entire road, do they? This is where sound insulation is worth its weight in gold.

Of significant importance is the fact that acoustic testing is also a key part of building regulations. Most localities will require sound testing as part of regulatory compliance; so, by law, you really ought to get that acoustic test underway!

What is approved document E?

Approved Document E is the part of building regulations related to resistance to sound. It provides guidance on sound insulation requirements in domestic and commercial buildings.

Part E applies to:

The document provides information on sound proofing; this includes the transmission of sounds between walls, windows, ceilings and floors. It covers unwanted sound travel within different areas of a building, such as:

If you are responsible for the construction, conversion or renovation of any building considered a dwelling (such as a detached or semi-detached home, a terrace house, a hotel, a school or a flat) then this is relevant to you 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

What are the different types of acoustic tests?

There are two types of acoustic test: an airborne acoustic test and an impact sound test.

An airborne acoustic test, according to UK Building Compliance is:

“In order to rate the airborne sound insulation of a party element, speakers are used to generate white noise, usually at levels of around 100 decibels, in the source room. Then, using a moving microphone technique, the average sound pressure level is measured on the other side of the element in question. The same procedure is used to measure the average sound pressure level in the receiver room.”

They describe an impact test as:

“Impact tests require a tapping machine to create impact sound directly on the floor construction in the source room. Measurements are taken in the receiver room, in third octave bands from 100Hz to 3150Hz. The impact sound pressure level is calculated, giving the floor an impact sound insulation rating. Measurements are taken with the tapping machine in at least four different positions and at least six measurements are taken.”

Essentially, an airborne sound test is utilised for – you guessed it – airborne sounds. This would include voices and music. Impact sound tests, on the other hand, evaluate the sound created through physical impact, such as footsteps against the floor.

What factors impact acoustic test results?

There are several contributing factors for the acoustic performance of a building. One of the most influential considerations is the workmanship of the dwelling.  Ultimately, if the overall quality of the building is poor, then sound insulation will need to work far harder to do its job well.

Some of the ways that this can manifest include:

The systems and products used will also make an enormous difference to the sound insulation within a dwelling. If an acoustic system is low quality, then you’ll quickly feel the ramifications within your acoustic test results. For example, low-density foam insulation will have a minimal positive impact on your sound insulation.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom; there are countless ways to alleviate your risk of sound leakage and, therefore, produce better acoustic testing results. These include:

Can Buildpass help me with acoustic testing?

Here at Buildpass, we provide both airborne and impact acoustic testing in line with Part E requirements. Our engineers and equipment are fully UKAS compliant: we have been doing acoustic testing for many years and our knowledge of sound insulation will save you costly design mistakes. 

And if (in the unlikely event) you fail your sound test, our engineers have the expertise to be able to isolate any problems and suggest proactive remedial solutions.

If you are ready for testing, please give us a call. If you are looking for some advice and what needs testing or whether your design is likely to meet the requirements then get in touch – we would love to help you!


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