Noise is a key quality-of-life problem for almost anyone living in a densely-packed urban environment. Many urban dwellers are immune to it as a result of having lived all their lives in the city—maybe you even grew up next to an elevated train line, like this writer. But others are very sensitive to it. Maybe you have a neighbor who keeps playing loud music at night. Maybe you constantly hear what sounds like a ball bouncing on the floor upstairs from you. Maybe you’re awakened early every morning by the sound of a garbage truck outside your window.
It's the bane of many a co-op or condo-dweller’s existence, and over the years engineers, architects, and designers have tried any number of ways to reduce the problem of noise in multifamily buildings—some more successfully than others.
When Noise Annoys
What are some of the main complaints that are heard in co-ops, condos and other apartment buildings? Door noises, people walking heavily on the floor above or talking loudly in the apartment next door are common problems. They could be noises that travel through paper-thin walls or floors, like footsteps, or they could be noises that travel through the air, like music or the loud voices of people who are arguing.
Corey Chambliss, deputy press secretary of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), adds several other sources of complaints—dogs barking, circulation devices (such as air conditioners) and construction or demolition projects and/or façade work outside.
Structural problems, problems that the residents can’t see, are often at the root of these complaints. “Often, floors and walls are either too thin or made of wood,” says Eugene Ferrara of JMA Consultants and Engineers P.C. in Englewood Cliffs. Most recent co-op or condo buildings, of course, are not wooden-frame buildings. But even in new buildings, he says, you often have sheetrock walls that aren’t properly insulated.