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  • Writer's pictureKyla Paine

Strata Headaches: Challenges Faced by Strata Councils When Dealing with Mechanical Noise

Strata councils frequently receive noise complaints. Skyrocketing populations in our urban centers, along with increased density, have necessitated a shift from single-family dwellings to multiple-family dwellings. Stratas are all too familiar with the difficulties this can pose relative to noise.

One of the most common complaints resulting in arbitration is noise from building systems. Residents of stratas' often complain about HVAC units, air conditioners, elevators, pumps, and generators. Equipment such as this can disrupt peace and quiet, affect quality of life and lead to conflicts.

HVAC units can lead to complaints from airflow, fans, and compressors. These units can generate significant whistling, hissing, rushing, humming, buzzing or rattling sounds especially if they are unbalanced, installed improperly, or lack proper vibration isolation. When this is the case, vibrations are transmitted through the structure into residents’ units.

Air conditioning units may have outdoor and indoor components resulting in humming, buzzing, or vibrating (outdoor especially if located near windows or living spaces) or whirring, rattling, and squeaking sounds (indoor particularly if installed incorrectly or requiring maintenance). Poorly insulated or improperly installed ductwork may lead to whistling, hissing, or banging sounds. Such units can transmit vibrations through the building structure causing a nuisance in adjacent suits. Cycling and water flow noise may also play a role in disrupting quality of life.

Elevators are another source of unwanted noise often producing mechanical sounds (whirring of the motors, humming of the pump, and clunking of the brakes) during operation. Elevator doors opening and closing (squeaking, creaking, or banging as doors latch shut) can be amplified near residential units. Motor noise from elevator machines can lead to significant complaints, especially from suites closest to the machinery. With hydraulic elevators, noises emanating from the hydraulic pumps and rams are also a common complaint.

Disruptions associated with pumps include humming, vibrations, or mechanical sounds during operation. Generators lead to reports of humming or rumbling when in operation. These complaints highlight the need for regular maintenance, inspections, and potential noise-reducing measures to ensure the comfort and well-being of strata residents.

Many buildings have insufficient vibration isolation and/or soundproofing measures in place allowing mechanical noise to travel through walls, floors, or ceilings resulting in noise complaints from multiple units. Determining the source of mechanical noise can pose a challenge, especially if the noise in question is intermittent or difficult to pinpoint. This can delay the resolution process and cause significant frustration for residents. Regardless, don’t wait to seek a solution.

Strata councils must investigate noise complaints and ensure noise levels emitted are within acceptable limits. Failure to do so can lead to legal consequences and fines. Implementing noise mitigation measures can be costly for stratas', therefore striking a balance between finding effective solutions and managing finances is critical. Sound testing may be necessary to provide evidence that the noise is unreasonable or demonstrate that the noise is within the acceptable range. The strata council must follow up.

Raincloud works with Owners, Tenants, and Strata Councils to remediate noise issues and resolve noise complaints. At Raincloud we believe that everyone deserves to live, work and play in an environment that promotes our overall wellness. Proper acoustics play an important role in achieving this goal. Whether you need the right products to eliminate unwanted noise from vibrations, a design to keep sound from a loud space out of a quiet space, or if you have an existing noise problem and need a turn-key solution, we can help. On time and on budget is our mantra.

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