Mixed use developments need to have the proper noise isolation partitions and the proper expectations for tenants. “I can hear their music and their phone ringing; I can even hear them repeat the order!” This comment came from a frustrated condo owner who lived above a sandwich shop in a mixed used condominium development. High density living often crashes with commercial spaces, and usually it is the residential owners that end up frustrated.

The problem is typically just the proximity of two very different worlds. We view and use our homes as an oasis, a place to get away from it all. While the commercial tenants are usually trying to attract as many patrons as possible; they come with loud music, lots of foot-traffic, and all the other noise that results from the operation of the business.

So what should you do about the noise? It is possible to minimize the noise impact that commercial spaces have to adjacent residential units. The key word in the last sentence is “minimize.” As acoustical consultants for mixed use developments, we find that one of the largest problems is expectations. When marketing words like “sound proof” are used, we caution anyone that is buying to fully inspect the unit, and ask to visit the unit during various times of the day/night to be sure that noises generated by the next door tenant is acceptable. The truth is “sound proof” is a subjective rating. One wall construction may be subjectively “sound proof” when the adjacent business is a library but more than likely wouldn’t be considered “sound proof” if it is separating you from a dance club.

The rating of how much noise is blocked by a partition is called STC (Sound Transmission Class). Upgrading the STC rating of the partition walls is the best way to minimize the noise that is transferred between the units; however, these upgrades come with several costs. You may need to lose some square footage by adding a larger wall cavity, and upgrades in the wall materials also drive up the cost of the partition. These costs are minimized when they are pre-planned into the project and can be extremely high when the partition wall needs to be upgraded after construction.

Successful projects often are the result of combining the best possible wall performance with the right expectations. Rarely will someone looking for an ultra-quiet retreat be happy with any adjacency to a commercial business, or for that matter, other residences.

Regardless of where you are in the process, Acoustics By Design can help. Our staff of experienced acoustical consultants have worked on mixed-use projects at all levels; our experience extends from design of new construction to measurement and retro-fit of existing construction units. Our expertise helps to bring the right performance and the right expectations to your mixed use project.

ABD Engineering and Design

ABD Engineering and Design is one of North America’s leading independent acoustical consulting and AV design firms, serving clients across the United States and Canada, as well as other international markets from offices in Grand Rapids, MI and Portland, OR. Our specialized acoustical engineering and AV design practices help architects, building owners, engineers, facility directors, and municipalities design spaces, environments, and systems for optimal acoustical and audiovisual performance. Our consulting practice areas specialize in all aspects of architectural acoustics, environmental and industrial noise and vibration control, and audiovisual systems design.

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