What are the key recommendations from the ProPG Acoustics Guide?
The Association of Noise Consultants (ANC) has partnered with the Institute of Acoustics (IOA) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) to create new guidance on acoustics in gym environments. Here, Adam Fox, director of Mason UK and one of the engineers who helped develop the guidance, explains the value of the document and its key recommendations.
The ProPG Acoustic Guidance has been developed for practitioners, developers, operators and Local Authorities involved in the construction of gyms. The document is the culmination of two years of hard work, involving cross-industry consultation with multiple experts from different fields.
Gym owners and developers will naturally want to create a pleasant acoustic environment for people exercising in their premises and avoiding creating noise complaints from people living or working nearby. However, gym equipment is often a major cause of vibration and noise, so appropriate preventative and mitigative strategies need to be considered at the earliest possible stage. This is a growing problem as many gyms belong in dual use buildings or are located in close proximity to residential buildings, where tolerance of noise is understandably lower.
Our key aim was to help standardise the approach for acoustics for gym operators, developers and local authorities for the first time. We hope this will provide a more consistent and preventative approach to acoustic problems. The guidance represents the latest science and thinking on this topic, but will need to be updated frequently in light of changing regulations, research findings and evolving best practice.
Acoustic issues from gym activity can be separated broadly into three sub-groups: high impact response, synchronised repetitive excitation and airborne noise. High impact response (HIR) typically includes things like weight drops, while synchronised repetitive excitation (SRE) includes equipment like a treadmill. Airborne noise, in contrast, would be something like amplified music.
The ProPG guidance sets out appropriate methodologies for dealing with HIR and SRE. For testing, the aim of a testing methodology should be to simulate the source activity in the proposed gym area, whether impact or repetitive excitation, and measure the resulting noise levels in the nearest sensitive receptors. The results can then be assessed against defined criteria, which the guidance also sets out.
The guidance also introduces a simplified prediction methodology for noise and vibration generated from the action of falling masses on floor slabs. This can be used as a scoping tool, in scenarios where it may not be possible to complete initial on-site testing. The method is considered an engineering method rather than one of precision, but we felt that based on experience, early insight ahead of a testing campaign was often worthwhile.
The guidance also deals with specification of mitigation, defining the purpose of specification as ensuring that the client is provided with correct and optimal treatment, as well as an understanding of why a particular approach is recommended and its practical ramifications. The latter part is sometimes neglected, but equally important.
Not all treatments can be accommodated structurally, for example where the installation of a floating floor would take up too much space. Where problematic gym equipment is used, treatment can sometimes be used to aid the isolation of certain machines, like a leg press, rather than applying a full floor system. In all cases, it is recommended that a responsible supplier works with the project acoustician and client team to demonstrate that the proposed mitigative strategy will work as intended. The guidance also sets out criteria for making sure you can hold the supplier to account here too.
Gyms and the equipment commonly found in them often present noise problems, so the introduction of standardised guidance is certainly welcome. On behalf of Mason UK, I can say we are grateful to the ANC, the IOA and the CIEH for allowing us to help contribute to this important document. After two years of collaboration, I hope the work we have done can provide a proactive approach to preserving quality of life and minimising the risk of noise complaints.