Friday, December 04, 2009

Doing things cheap, stairwells...

Just now, some of my neighbors were carrying some big boxes out, and dropped them. It made a long crash which sounded like doomsday, so of course I jumped out there to see if anybody was hurt or anything.

Now, apart from some picking-up being needed, no harm had been done. But it got me thinking: every stairwell I've been in, in my whole life, has had this noise-exaggerating effect to it. Simple because it's built like a box, and with hard walls, and nothing has ever been done to dampen noise, not even a few tapestries or whatever. Why? Because it's cheaper of course.

And so, just to save a few thousand whatever, for the hundred years the building stands, everybody who ever lives there has to live with exaggerated noise in their home.

It's the same problem, just to a lesser degree, in noise insulation between apartments. I would love to live in an apartment building which was built well in this regard, but I don't even know if they exist.

And this is not the exeption, it's the rule. I think it says a lot about humanity.


Tommy said...

EO - "It's the same problem, just to a lesser degree, in noise insulation between apartments."

Hence, I own (well the bank also) and live in a self standing house. Of course there was the time when I was a little younger, we lived in an appartment next to two gals that had a lot of male guests. We used to listen at the walls ;-)

Monsieur Beep! said...

I hope the two next door ladies were involved ;-)
you're right, these staircases are very uninviting. That's why we've put some ornaments on the Walls and on the stairs, although this makes cleaning a bit more arduous. Noises are dampened as a side effect, though.

The Dissonance said...

Musicians can't live in apartments but often do. I can't count the number of people asking on musician's aliases where to practice if you live in an apartment. Since my wife and I are both musicians and I often have music groups and students playing in the studio, I think we'll keep the house.

Bert said...

My brother, as well as a few other friends and acquaintances do live in luxury condo towers with high sound-proofing standards.

Hearing the neighbors is indeed not a common occurrence in such places, and one certainly does not hear anything from stairwells (everybody uses the elevators :).

But... the ambient noise level is always higher than it would be in any stand-alone housing unit, there's always that "city rumble" in the background. It may be something that few people can identify, or even be aware of, but it nevertheless impacts on their lives continuously. You may dampen and scatter acoustic energy all you want, but to absorb it all... (1)

And then the real bad news hit when the time comes to carry out renovations. Sound-proofing is not easy, and certainly not cheap. If you want to be certain that all neighbors play by the rules and do their share in the common pursuit of this so elusive silence, then you have to impose strict rules. Only approved contractors are allowed on the premises, which guarantees very substantial bills!

(1) Back in my soundman days, I had the good fortune to spent some time alone in a totally sound-proofed room. I sat there, on the floor, enjoying the experience for about 15~20 minutes until the door opened again. I cannot begin to tell you how much of an aggression the outside noise was at that very moment! Took me a while to adjust back to "normal" levels, too.

But that room is a building inside an insulating shell inside a building. The room itself is suspended from above via specialized dampening structures, while there is a massive shell of sound-proofing materials surrounding it, all this inside an immense building. The room has no contact with the shell, which is in turn separate from the building. Oh, and no windows, of course. That works.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thanks, Bert, that's very interesting.

I'd suspected something like that.

I had some intense spiritual/energy/emotional/perceptive breakthroughs in the late eighties, and my perceptions intensified.
There was one night where I just had to get out of the city. I took the earliest morning train to my father's in the country, and the next day walked until I was out of earshot of anything human. Just had to.

Bert said...

That's why I leave the downtown life to those who enjoy it, and am perfectly happy to watch the ducks play on the river, some 10 meters from my office window. This remote suburb might be hell for my bro, but it certainly suits me fine. There's obviously noise here too, but on a far more human scale...

captcha: shwake

CalgaryMark said...

Eolake, the stairwells have to remain free of 'soft' stuff because they are fire escapes and nothing toxic or combustible can be there (by building codes in Canada - can't speak for the UK). Nearly all buildings are built to minimum standards to 'maximize' the profit for the developer - but developers forget that by building to a higher standard, albeit at a cost, they could sell for a higher price and make a greater profit faster, producing more satisfied purchasers.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Right, the first point I had not considered.

But you're very right about the second point, very much in extension of what I was talking about.