It’s oh so quiet…

It’s oh so quiet…

Elizabeth Bushell, Forbo Flooring Systems, discusses the importance of controlling noise and the role flooring can play

In student living spaces, excess noise can become a real nuisance if left unchecked. In fact, incessant noise is not only distracting, affecting productivity and concentration, but it can also negatively impact residents’ mental and physical health. Here, Elizabeth Bushell, Key Accounts Manager – Student Accommodation and BtR at Forbo Flooring Systems, discusses the importance of controlling noise and the role flooring can play in creating contemporary, yet acoustically sound spaces in multi-occupancy buildings.

When it comes to students choosing accommodation, many will look for developments that contain communal areas for socialising, sports activities, and entertainment. But that’s not all! They want to live somewhere where they know they will be able to study in peace and get a good night’s sleep. According to a survey in February 2022 by Here! Student Living, it found that students spend roughly 13 out of 24 hours in their bedroom a day, with most choosing to spend more time studying in their rooms (73%) than on campus or in public places (27%).

As such designing in good acoustics is vital when it comes to developing or refurbishing student accommodation. Indeed, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has stated that excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities. It can disturb sleep, reduce performance, provoke annoyance responses, and cause negative effects on social behaviour.

So, what types of sound are there? Sound can take one of two forms: airborne noise, or impact noise. It is important to know the difference, as each comes with its own specific set of challenges – and products designed to reduce airborne noise will not necessarily reduce impact noise. Therefore, when designing student accommodation, it is important to understand the difference.

Airborne noise applies to things like TV noise, people talking and dogs barking. This form of noise travels through the air and will either reflect off building elements when it hits them, be absorbed into acoustic dense materials or travel through building structures and be radiated out to the other side. When reflected, the noise level can increase, and when absorbed or allowed to travel through structures, the volume can be reduced.

Impact noise occurs following a physical impact on a building, or solid material. For example, footfall and banging doors are both examples of impact sound. When impact sound occurs both sides of the building element vibrate, generating sound waves. For example, in multi-occupancy buildings, moving around furniture or even the clatter of footsteps can quickly become very loud, which can be detrimental to the health, concentration levels and general comfort of those living in the building.

When it comes to measuring sound – either airborne or impact –, it is done so using decibels (dB). Decibels denote the intensity of the sound, which relates to how much energy a sound wave contains. The human ear is capable of hearing sounds as quiet as 10 dB but can begin to become damaged when listening to sounds of around 80 dB.

Fortunately, advances in sound insulation solutions means that noises coming from inside or outside of a building can now be significantly reduced – and there are several solutions available, which can be used individually, or together, as part of a broader acoustic treatment scheme.

However, one of the most effective ways to combat impact sound is acoustic flooring. Acoustic flooring is specifically manufactured with a high-performance foam backing to enhance impact sound reduction. It can be installed as part of a new build but also offers a good retrofit solution when it comes to improving the acoustic performance of older buildings.

Acoustic flooring can also contribute to the acoustic performance of a building in two ways:

  1. Reducing the level of in-room impact sound generated will help to lower overall ambient noise levels within the space itself, improving the acoustic environment. In-room impact noise for floor coverings is tested to standard NF-S 31-074 with performance classifications from A to D. Products receiving a Class A classification offer the best performance in terms of reducing in-room impact sound.
  2. Reducing impact sound at source will also reduce the level of noise that can be transmitted through the floor and into the spaces below. Here, the impact sound reduction performance of the floor covering is the most important factor to consider. Impact sound reduction values are measured across a range of sound frequencies and the weighted value is quoted in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel value of the floor covering, the better the flooring performance in reducing impact sound.

Whilst acoustics are essential in terms of a floor’s performance, universities and developers do not need to compromise on aesthetics. As the trend for bringing a natural look and feel into living spaces continues to rise, wood and stone effect designs remain ever popular. Modern and sophisticated, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) offer the ability to replicate the realism of its natural counterpart, with the advantages of improved durability and design freedom to create striking flooring schemes. And now, there are even LVT options on the market that offer high levels of acoustic performance, enabling the best of both worlds.

Forbo’s new acoustic LVT range, Allura Decibel, has been developed to offer best in class acoustic performance, offering 19 dB impact sound reduction. The new collection also consists of 49 innovative and fresh designs to create modern, yet practical flooring schemes. For example, there is a new a twine wood effect, which is a hybrid between wood, stone and textile aesthetics for a softer and more elegant take on modern wood. There’s also new subtle marbled designs and abstract tweed patterns, as well as a new digitally printed option called Sky, which is reminiscent of a beautiful early morning sunrise to help bring the outside in.

In the development of the new Allura Decibel collection, Forbo has continued its work in increasing the sustainability of its portfolio. Produced in Europe based on zero waste principles and using 100% green electricity, Allura Decibel is 100% phthalate free, REACH* compliant and contains up to 30% recycled content. The excellent dimensional stability ensures safe and hygienic floors, as dirt isn’t trapped in the seams; and the superior embossed lacquering system guarantees long lasting appearance retention and improves resistance to stains and scratches.

When it comes to specifying acoustic flooring, it is recommended that you liaise with a flooring manufacturer that understands the challenges of student accommodation and can offer a variety of solutions to create comforting places for students to work, sleep and socialise within.

For more information about Forbo’s new Allura Decibel range please visit

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