however, that can be applied equally effectively in new hospitals and older health estate buildings.

Sound behaves in different ways according to the types of floor and wall surfaces in the room. Four common scenarios include:

• Transmission: Sound flows through and between materials.

• Absorption: Sound energy is lost when sound waves come into contact with, for example, walls and floors, and is not reflected back into the space.

• Reflection: Sound is reflected back into the space.

• Diffusion: Rough surfaces reflect sound, scattering it in all directions.

Hard interior surfaces such as floors can reflect rather than absorb sound. This causes noise to bounce around, overlap, echo and reverberate. Reverberation causes noise to prolong and echo in the environment, meaning it takes longer before the sound stops. In addition to airborne noise, floors affect impact sound (such as footsteps transmitted to rooms below). So, a quietly comfortable room should ideally have floor surfaces which absorb airborne sound and mitigate the impact sound of traffic such as feet and the movement of equipment. Surfaces of this type will also help to prevent escalating noise, described by the Lombard effect. This is the involuntary tendency of speakers to increase their vocal effort when speaking in noisy spaces to enhance the audibility of their voice. Improving acoustic performance of an area, by fitting flooring with noise reduction capabilities, can prevent the tendency for those occupying the space to raise their voices, breaking the auditory ‘vicious circle’ of escalating noise.

The illustrations in Figure 1 demonstrate how much impact sound can be reduced by different Altro floors when installed on top of a range of substrates There are two key ways of driving enhanced acoustic performance via the choice of floorcovering, both of which are suitable for areas where equipment needs to be moved on a routine basis. Firstly, acoustic flooring products are available with different sound absorption characteristics. Altro Serenade vinyl acoustic flooring, for example, helps to tackle noise in buildings by reducing the impact sound transmission, increasing sound absorption and reducing sound reflection. It is 3.9mm think and delivers a sound reduction of up to 19dB. In addition to contributing to a quieter atmosphere it provides comfort underfoot, making it an effective solution for staff who spend much of the time on their feet.

Alternatively, the Altro Wood Safety Comfort range provides a wide range of wood look options in contemporary shades,

with wide plank classic and rustic designs to achieve the aesthetic impact for the space. But it also has the advantage of being a 2.85mm thick flooring product delivering a 14dB sound reduction, making it ideal for areas where noise can be a problem. As its name suggests, Altro Wood Safety Comfort is a safety floor (PTV >36), reducing the risk of slipping on water to one in a million. As it is durable and stain- resistant, and comes with a lifetime sustained slip resistance guarantee, it also makes it possible to bring enhanced acoustic performance to high traffic areas. Another option to consider is Altro Orchestra - a 2.85 mm thick floor offering a level of impact sound reduction up to 15dB. Available in 40 colours it offers extensive design opportunities.

Secondly, an Impact Sound Reduction underlay could be fitted beneath a traditional vinyl floor to enhance its sound reduction performance. Altro Acoustic Underlay 1101, for example, is suitable for use with Altro safety flooring, Altro Nuvola rubber flooring and Altro smooth flooring. When used in isolation Altro Aquarius has a dB rating of 5, for example, but by incorporating Altro 1101 Impact Sound Reduction underlay beneath it, this floor covering will have an overall impact sound reduction of around 17dB. Alternatively, Altro Everlay B underlays could be fitted, offering sound reduction of up to 20dB. This option could be particularly helpful in areas requiring flooring with specific slip resistance properties, such as bathrooms or kitchens.

To conclude, the choice of acoustic flooring will be dictated by the requirements of different parts of the hospital, to ensure that all priorities (aesthetics, slip resistance and acoustics) are met. Flooring specialists will be able to assist in this process, specifying a suitable solution for each zone. HEALTHCARE | 35

The role of the subfloor

The role of the subfloor ant, discusses how to tackle the problems of noise in hospitals.

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