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Motel beats Road Noise : Wall Works Wonders

Motel beats Road Noise : Wall Works Wonders

There is some hope for the thousands of homeowners affected by traffic noise along busy roads such as State Highway 1. On most of these roads the noise is getting worse, as the traffic volumes increase. Recent experience at the Hamilton Town and Country Motel on State Highway 1 between Hamilton and Cambridge has found an affordable solution which could easily be applied to residential properties.

The traffic noise became so bad that customers were moving out of the motel after staying only one night, as it was just too noisy. When it affected business like that a solution had to be found.

The owners called in acoustic expert Bob Thorn from Noise Measurement Services Limited to look at the problem and find a solution - and it was easier than expected. The noise levels were so high inside the units that a reduction of 8 – 10 decibels was required. The noise outside was even higher, over 70 decibels and that level of noise has health implications. WHO recommends 45 decibels in a bedroom.

Motel Manager Christina Macpherson lives there and her bedroom was worst affected. “Like all people living alongside a busy road you think you get used to the noise. I often couldn’t understand what the guests were worried about. While you do adjust to it over time, it does affect your hearing and it is stressful.”

Bob’s practical proposal was to build an acoustic wall across the whole of the front of the site, and along part of the side boundaries. The old low block wall (see photo) was no use as a noise barrier and trees are also completely ineffective. He set the basic criteria – a continuous solid wall 2.4m high preferably with the lower part being an earth mound.

Architect Michael O’Sullivan from Bull and O’Sullivan Architects was already completely up-grading the motel interiors, so he was given the job to design the wall.

One big problem was the entrance in the middle of the site. This opening in the wall would let the noise in as well as the guests. The entrance was given a special design to limit the effect of any noise that did get in. However, one guest room and Christina’s bedroom were still getting a direct hit. Michael changed the existing wooden framed windows in these rooms to aluminium ones with noise reducing HUSH glass. That had an immediate impact.

The upper portion of the wall is 1.4m high with a timber frame and Titan Panel cladding on both sides. (see photo) The lower portion is a 1m high earth mound which Lee Burton of the Landscape Design Studio Ltd had to deal with. She incorporated the mound into a landscape design for the front portion of the site. The entrance design was changed to include a planter on either side and decorative lighting so that the noise barrier actually became a landscape feature. Selecting the fence colour was very important as it is a 80m long and had to fit in with the up-grade of the motel and the country location. (see photo).

Christina said the most significant reduction came when the earth barrier was put into place. “That cut out the noise from the wheels and the motors. The regular guests immediately noticed the difference and no one since then has moved on because of the traffic noise. A lot of people have asked us what we were building and why. Anyone living next to State Highway 1 like us should look at what they could do for their own house. The background noise is still there but the annoying loud noise has now gone”.

Michael sees plenty of situations where a similar approach could be used. “Anyone building a new wall or fence along a busy road frontage should ensure that it is located as close to the road as possible and blocked direct line of sight to the traffic. It should be solid enough to absorb and reflect the noise, be a continuous barrier, and around 2 metres high, taking into account the relative levels of the house and the road surface. It won’t cost more than a lot of decorative fences that people build that don’t provide any noise protection, but will make living there so much better”.

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