Noise pollution destroying condo life
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Noise pollution destroying condo life

An aerial view of downtown Bangkok shows high-rise condos and buildings. (Photo: Sarot Meksophawannakul)
An aerial view of downtown Bangkok shows high-rise condos and buildings. (Photo: Sarot Meksophawannakul)

With the city's skyline constantly evolving, Bangkok's condominium market continues to surge, offering breathtaking views, contemporary designs, and unparalleled amenities. But there's an often overlooked aspect every buyer should prioritise before making an investment: noise insulation. As the metropolis grows more congested, the clamour of urban life can be a constant disturbance without adequate soundproofing.

For many, the appeal of owning a condominium in Bangkok lies in its urban conveniences. From the allure of the city's vibrant nightlife and its culinary delights to the accessibility of business districts, buying a condo here promises a life of luxury and ease. But imagine settling into your new haven only to discover the intrusive disturbance of outdoor (traffic) noise or even worse the noise from your neighbours.

In Thailand there is no legislation for noise between condominiums so you cannot rely on regulations to make sure that you won't be disturbed by noise from your neighbours.

The placid sound environment that you expect to get can be disturbed by two kinds of noise, airborne noise and structural borne noise.

Airborne noise can be noise nuisance from (loud) talking neighbors, TV or music, etc. Airborne noise can also come from outside from traffic noise, entertainment venues or factories. Another airborne noise source can be installations in your house such as fans, air conditioning, installation noise from the neighbour's plumbing (from toilet flushing, showering etc).

Noise insulation materials installed in the walls of a condominium.  Michel Rosmolen

Structural borne noise is caused by vibrations in the construction of a condominium; think of people walking on a floor with high heels, a gym with falling weights, a condominium that is next to a lift shaft or since recently, a condominium that is next to an automated car park lift, the origin of the noise heard in the condominium has a structural borne source.

The human ear is designed to pick up sounds, and while it's a boon in quieter, natural settings, in a bustling city, it becomes a bane. Continuous exposure to noise affects our sleep patterns, concentration, and can have long-term psychological effects.

Prioritise noise insulation

Condominium developers have a responsibility to offer not just aesthetically pleasing designs but also condominiums that guarantee privacy, quiet and peace. As the race is on to build as many condominium projects as possible at the lowest cost, noise insulation does not have a high priority. The developers are still building the walls and floors as they did 30 years ago, mostly using a 10–12cm light weight concrete block. The noise reduction will be around STC (Sound Transmission Loss) at best at 40 decibels. Buyers, however, are getting more and more aware of this (most of the times unfortunately after they bought their condo) and complain as an "owners group"; they are not happy with those old standards being used and want more value for their money. If even the lowest standards are not being met they will complain to the developers and force them to implement noise mitigation measures.

Check before purchase

Given the importance of soundproofing, every potential buyers should be proactive in ensuring their new condo offers effective noise insulation. Here's what you can do:

Ask about the used building materials -- developers and agents should provide details about the type of building materials used. Especially for the walls and floors as these will determine the STC between the condominiums. It would even be better if there is a clause about noise reduction in the contract, so you don't have to worry about this. There are many ways for developers to predict the noise insulation of a building in the design phase.

When buying a new condo, just ask for the acoustic report to make sure that the values will match your expectations.

A recommended value for privacy in your condo would be a Sound Transmission Coefficient of 50dB, which is basically the amount of noise being blocked to your neighbours, so the higher the better.

For example, a 5-star hotel would have an STC value of around 55 dB.

The Path Forward

As Bangkok continues to flourish and its condominium market booms, developers and buyers alike must prioritise noise insulation. It's not just about ensuring a quiet home; it's about safeguarding mental well-being, ensuring restful sleep, and enhancing the overall quality of life.

Potential buyers are encouraged to consider noise insulation as a non-negotiable in their new condo. By doing so, they can guarantee a serene oasis in the heart of Bangkok, undisturbed by the city's relentless energy.

We have been following complaints from buyers of new condominiums and so many are very disappointed once they can get into their new condominium. Once bought, it is very difficult and expensive to improve the noise transmission loss. If designed well from the start, the additional costs are more than worth it.

Michel Rosmolen is Bangkok-based acoustic engineer.

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