Fenestration: Soundproof Windows

Post-Pandemic Traffic Increase Spurs Need to Solve Urban Noise Problems

by Del Williams, technical writer

With the worst of the pandemic over, anyone living or working in a busy urban setting is assaulted by the noise of increasing traffic, including car engines revving, screeching brakes, roaring jets, and train horns blaring.  Vehicle travel has returned to near pre-pandemic levels and has surpassed pre-COVID levels in 15 states, according to a recent report by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. 

         As people return to their offices for work, as well as go to restaurants, entertainment venues, and vacation destinations, noisy traffic is returning to metro areas.  After the relative quiet of pandemic lockdowns and working from home, the increased noise level can seem particularly aggravating to some.  Left unaddressed, unwelcome outside noise can disturb sleep, decrease work productivity, and chronically elevate stress.

         Fortunately, homeowners, office managers, and real estate professionals are implementing a quick, proven, cost-effective solution that can dramatically reduce external noise intrusion.  Adding a second soundproof window in the most problematic locations can not only cut outside noise by up to 95%, but also increase work productivity, as well as lease and occupancy rates, while decreasing turnover.  The same tactic can be applied to both oversized windows and sliding glass doors, which due to their larger size, can be an even greater source of external noise.

Silencing Noisy Traffic

         Multiple studies have shown that 90% of exterior noise enters through windows, not walls.  In homes and commercial properties, traditional single-pane windows offer little resistance to external noise.  Unfortunately, simply replacing the windows seldom adequately resolves the problem.  Even dual pane replacement windows are not designed to cut noise penetration, but rather to keep out heat and cold.  While the seals of a new window provide some noise reduction, the two pieces of glass in dual pane windows are separated by an air space and sealed into one solid glass unit.  Like a drum, this causes both pieces of glass to vibrate together.  This drum effect defeats the noise reduction benefit of dual pane windows. 

         Instead, a growing number of property owners and managers are finding a solution to the noise problem with a more modern soundproofing technology.  For example, some are turning to companies like Soundproof Windows, Inc., a firm with expertise engineering windows for some of the most noise sensitive environments in the world, such as recording studios. 

         The company has adapted recording studio window soundproofing technology for residential and commercial properties by creating a secondary soundproofing window that installs inside, behind the existing window.  The product is custom designed specifically to match, and function, like the original window.  Installation is simple, straightforward, and usually can be completed in about an hour or two.

         The inner window essentially reduces noise from entering on three fronts: the type of materials used to make the pane; the ideal air space between original window and insert; and improved, long-lasting seals.  The combination can reduce external noise by up to 95%.

         “The first noise barrier is laminated glass, which dampens sound vibration much like a finger on a wine glass stops it from ringing when struck.  An inner PVB layer of plastic further dampens sound vibrations,” explained Randy Brown, president of Soundproof Windows.

         Air space of 2”-4” between the existing window and the Soundproof Window also significantly improves noise reduction because it isolates the window frame from external sound vibrations.  Finally, the company places spring-loaded seals in the second window frame.  This puts a constant squeeze on the glass panels, which prevents sound leaks and helps to stop noise from vibrating through the glass.  These spring-loaded seals are designed to stay as acoustically sound 15 years down the road as they were on day one.

         The company has also created a second sliding patio door that can be installed easily inside or outside of the existing door that reduces external sound in a similar way.  This consists of laminated glass construction, a surface mount aluminum frame, track insert, mounting fin, and a sound insulated movable aluminum sash with rolling mechanism.  The product is designed specifically to match and function like the original door and can open and lock separately.

         For homeowners, office managers, and business professionals needing to quiet the clamor of increasing traffic, the bottom line is that by selectively soundproofing the windows and sliding glass doors that are most problematic, they can quickly handle any external noise issues.  This can preserve a quiet home and work environment amid aggravating traffic noise, which also helps to maximize the sales price and lease/rental rate.

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