• May 1st, 2023

Environmental noise control with sound barrier walls or equipment enclosures

Older concrete, wood or metal sound walls are being replaced with longer lasting PVC ones

Noise reduction from sources, such as highways, railways, industrial sites, commercial developments and HVAC equipment can positively impact quality of life.

Study compares effects of environmental noise on our health

A March 2022 article in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) wrote a comparative study of self-reported health status and perceptual responses toward environmental noise in rural, suburban and urban regions of Canada. Health Canada, in collaboration with the market and social research partner, Advanis, conducted the Canadian Perspectives on Environmental Noise Survey (CPENS) to investigate expectations and attitudes toward environmental noise in rural and non-rural Canada. In addition to other measures, the survey provides new data on the prevalence of noise annoyance, noise sensitivity, sleep disturbance and expectations of quiet living conditions.

Environmental noise control is a growing industry

Ambient noise reduction is a growing industry worldwide with a variety of solutions available for both interior and exterior applications. Exterior sound control measures became more in demand with the growth of cities in the last half of the twentieth century due to larger transportation corridors passing through residential areas and commercial or industrial sites sometimes being adjacent to neighborhoods. 

Early sound wall materials were prone to degradation

Early sound walls and enclosures were often made from wood, metal, concrete or other composite materials. Over time, the drawbacks of noise barriers made from these materials became evident as they began to show wear and degradation from weather and other factors. Wood was prone to rot; metal could fall victim to rust; concrete was susceptible to cracking and break-up from repeated freeze/thaw cycles. In fact, many of the earlier sound walls are being replaced today by more sustainable and effective solutions, such as lightweight PVC sound walls.

Lightweight PVC sound barrier walls are long-lasting and sustainable solutions

PVC sound walls, like AIL Sound Walls, are durable and low-maintenance choices. They’re impervious to rain, snow and ice and are unaffected by de-icing salts. Plus, PVC noise barriers won’t rot, rust or stain. A “greener” solution overall, they’re  made from a readily renewable and recyclable product with the highest percentage of recycled material. Their manufacturing process minimizes water consumption and optimizes shipping for reduced CO2 emissions. And the lighter weight of the PVC systems allows for smaller foundations for a better urban land use.

Cut-away views of PVC sound barrier wall panels

AIL Sound Walls are available in both absorptive or reflective systems

Unlike noise barriers made from the other materials, AIL Sound Walls are available as either Silent Protector (Absorptive) or Tuf-Barrier (Reflective) systems. With Sound Transmission Class (STC) ratings of up to 39, these sound barrier systems are engineered for maximum sound reduction of environmental or ambient noise such as traffic, manufacturing, industrial or commercial noise. AIL Sound Walls offer enhanced aesthetic solutions with a variety of attractive colors and even woodgrain textures and finishes. 

 PVC sound barrier wall in woodgrain finish

Environmental noise control for exterior HVAC systems 

Unlike interior HVAC noise that can be caused by mechanical noise, duct airflow noise and vibration, exterior HVAC noise is essentially mechanical noise extending through the air. When installing or retrofitting exterior HVAC systems, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Don’t place HVAC equipment near noise-sensitive receptors 
  • Attach rooftop HVAC equipment to stiff/massive structural elements 
  • Mount HVAC equipment on inertial blocks/rails/curbs 
  • Use flexible collars between all major elements 
  • Use acoustical louvers for air intake from outdoors 
  • Use vibration isolation springs/pads under rotating equipment 
  • Beware of silencer pressure drop (do not exceed 0.3 inchH2O) and self-generated noise 
  • Enclose rooftop HVAC equipment in a noise enclosure (while providing for adequate airflow) 
  • Install a noise barrier or parapet wall between the HVAC equipment and the receptor(s) 
  • A barrier must break the line of sight, have no gaps and be sufficiently massive (>4 lbs/SF) 

Design of exterior equipment enclosures to control noise

Tackle noise at its source with environmental noise control enclosures to effectively contain and reduce noise levels. A highly effective means for controlling localized equipment noise is installing an encapsulating noise control enclosure around the sources of noise, such as HVAC systems, chillers, generators or compressors to contain and absorb the noise to an acceptable level. 

While it contains noise, the enclosure mustn’t  interfere with the operation of or access to the equipment. Because almost every local noise issue is in a different kind of environment or from a specific piece of machinery, each enclosure requires custom design and an understanding of the surrounding noise sources and building structure.

The AIL Sound Walls team specializes in the design of equipment enclosures of all types

Our in-house design and engineering teams work in collaboration with some of the industry’s leading acoustical consultants. Our lightweight and adaptable PVC sound wall systems lets them easily accommodate unique sites and their challenges such as grade changes, angles, curves and other complex geometries.  

Plus, PVC sound walls can be fashioned into access gates, utility ports and ventilation apertures. Their light weight also makes them ideal for structure-mounted, wall-clad and rooftop applications.

Multiple views of sound barrier wall equipment enclosures

APEX by AIL Sound Walls offers a new slant on equipment enclosures 

The latest innovation from the AIL Sound Walls R&D teams is our APEX angle-top format for equipment enclosures. Take any type of AIL Sound Walls (Silent Protector, Tuf-Barrier, Plus, XL Series), angle the top portion toward the noise source and you have APEX by AIL Sound Walls. The resulting “sound cove” effect helps contain the unwanted noise and reduces the wall heights while providing similar sound-mitigation effectiveness.

Views of noise barrier wall equipment enclosure with angled top panels

Always work with professionals on all environmental noise control solutions

The AIL Sound Walls team supports you through all phases of your noise barrier wall project — engineering, manufacturing, project management and site assistance — so you know you have a turn-key solution you can count on.

  • Designs based on wind loading and local soil conditions
  • Detailed proposals complete with installation budget estimates
  • Engineer-stamped project drawings for approvals and construction
  • Professional support in engineering, project management and site assistance

A North American network of environmental noise control experts 

With our network of sales teams, engineering offices and manufacturing facilities, AIL Sound Walls is a proven project partner — ready to help you through every stage of your next infrastructure project.

An AIL Sound Walls Representative can help you save

There’s an AIL Sound Walls specialist ready to help you value engineer a better solution for your sound-mitigation project.

Call toll-free 1-866-231-7867 to get started.

The AIL Group of Companies