The Acoustics, Ventilation and Overheating Residential Design Guide a year on, and has COP26 sharpened our minds?
10 December 2021
It seems like only yesterday that the Acoustics, Ventilation and Overheating (AVO) Residential Design Guide was published with great fanfare, and I’m proud of what was achieved by experts at the time.
However, more than a year has now passed and the fear is that little has changed.
There is still an urgent need to quantitatively understand the combined effect of noise levels with duration of an overheating condition. The document insisted on this, and it was a gaping limitation in the guidance. Without better understanding, policy makers are going to be highly unlikely to respond, designers are left scratching their heads and local authority officers have their heads in their hands.
Of course, you’ll likely be reading this and thinking - aren’t you just using COP26 to promote acoustics when it hasn’t got anything to do with it? - well, you’d be half right.
Controlling overheating and noise are in conflict with one another. You keep your window closed to reduce noise, which increases overheating. You open it to cool down and the noise coming in greatly increases. It is worth remembering too that long term exposure to noise is a health risk, as is overheating.
The obvious solution is to rely on mechanical ventilation with comfort cooling modes. The only problem with this is that it uses electricity and, well, it heats up the world outside. Microclimates will be made worse and this will not only exacerbate local overheating issues but also impact climate change. The plant associated with the systems also adds even more noise into the environment. The situation is not sustainable.
So, there is a lot of sense in using COP26 to remind ourselves of the urgent need to pin down the relationship between overheating, noise and ventilation to the extent we can comprehensively design to.
There’s another opportunity to do this through the Government’s Future Building Standard, but the research needs to keep pace with the windows to influence policy. People want change now, but do we have the keys to unlock the engineering challenges faced yet?
At BWB our acoustics, MEP and indoor air quality teams work closely to make sure designs meet our client’s expectations, as well as those of our future generations, so there can be #gainforall.