Beware of the acoustic virus!

I have to admit it. We are a noisy country. We don`t talk, we shout, and that does not stop there, almost every activity Spaniards do or carry out, produces more noise than our European counter parts. This is one of the most fastidious idiosyncrasies of the Spanish people and we architects have to deal to a great extent with this predicament.

From personal observations I also discover that noise and noisiness can contaminate individuals as in my favourite series of "The Walking Dead".

Acoustic metamorphosis.

When expats walk in the arrival lounge at Alicante airport, the virus immediately posses them, initially these viruses attack the vocal chords and then the rest of the body. From quite civilize people they begging their personal acoustic metamorphosis and from communicating by whispering, they slowly commence talking a bit more loudly. At this point the virus invade little by little all their bodies and after a couple of days (sometimes hours) it is in a local Spanish restaurant and after a second bottle of wine that the acoustic virus goes untamed and this nation of whisperers go absolutely barbaric and beat even the noisiest Spaniard of the locality.

The virus disappears miraculously.

Having said that, I have good news, the virus disappears miraculously the moment they join the Ryanair queue at Alicante airport to return to UK. Apparently for unknown reason this "acoustic virus" vacate their bodies (I personally believe to invade new fresh bodies from UK at the arrival lounge) and they start to speak softly to communicate with other individuals.

And now seriously friends, noise is not a trivial matter, is one of the biggest irritations we have to endure in Spain. According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), 14.6% of households surveyed indicated that the noise from the street and neighbours are the main problem endured at home, ahead of the lack of space (12, 6%), crime or vandalism (10%) and pollution (7.8%).

Noise can be literally a real headache. If it is annoying at home, is even worse in offices, hotels, malls, hospitals, restaurants ... Sometimes, are noises from outside; in other cases, from the neighbours; and other, caused by echoes and reverberations produced within the enclosure itself. This is self evident in public spaces such as restaurants.

Therefore, it is essential to act preventing and avoiding its effects, as far as possible. Acoustic conditioning and insulation are very important in many aspects of our society, but we are unaware of its importance until the 'absence' of such isolation or lack of a good acoustic treatment is suffered. All of us, at some point in our lives; have suffered its consequences in our own homes or in our friends or family's when we heard conversations, TV air noise from the next door neighbours' or impact noise from jumping or running on the floor above.

Such situations should be less frequent in Spain, as new buildings being design now days have to implement the DB-HR the new Technical Building Code which came into effect in 2007. All agents involved in the construction industry such as architects, engineers, developers and manufacturers of building materials have to implement (by law) higher acoustic insulations, not only in design but also in its safety, habitability and thermal and acoustic comfort.

Adequate insulation and acoustic treatment is important because it helps to improve comfort and quality of life for building users. Its advantages are many, as all solutions that protect us from acoustic pollution help to improve physical and mental wellbeing, avoiding problems like stress or insomnia. Moreover, most of the solutions for improving acoustic performance contribute also to improving thermal efficiency, reducing energy demand to achieve comfortable conditions.

Acoustic insulation is extremely important because its efficiency will improve our acoustic comfort, a basic parameter for the quality of life, as it is well known, and noise may effects health from simple stress to heart problems.

More than half of the complaints about houses in Spain have their origin in noise. Furthermore, it is shown that noise pollution can cause different diseases like sleep disorder, stress, irritability, abnormal heart rate and breathing, lack of concentration ... Having an optimal acoustic treatment, and an effective acoustic insulation is a health guaranty, ensuring an environment quiet and relaxed inside the home and achieving significant health benefits during rest periods, adding relaxation and quality of life.

I also believe that a good acoustic insulation is essential for a normal home comfort. In addition, numerous studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between the noise level of a room and the comfort/discomfort that will provide to its users. I couldn´t emphasize enough the importance of a good acoustic treatment to protect people from noise pollution, since it is a matter not only of comfort but also health.

Incidentally, I have been informed from a bona fide source that the virus is also activated if instead of wine you ask for beer at your local restaurants.

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