It would be reasonable to assume that any operation serving 70 million customers each year; bringing in billions for the exchequer; employing over 76,000 people, and regularly lauded as one of the world’s best, to have the full support of the government for future growth. But when that operation is a noisy airport, the reality isn’t quite so straightforward.
It’s estimated that 780,000 people live under Heathrow’s flight path, the UK’s busiest port and gateway to 84 countries. Noise pollution is regularly cited as a major factor for those wanting its expansion not to go ahead, and in July this became a key aspect of the Davies Commission report, looking at future expansion. The decision to recommend the go-ahead for a new third runway, was given on the proviso that a legally binding ‘noise envelope’ is put in place, with firm limits on the level of noise created by the airport.
At the moment, about 650 planes take off each day along one of the “Noise Preferential Routes” – 1.9 mile-wide (3km) corridors set by the Department for Transport (DfT) in the 1960s to minimise noise disturbance to the airport’s neighbours.
The huge expansion in housing around the Greater London area since then means there are many more people living along those routes, but technology has also moved on, and the noise people feel in their homes can be greatly reduced through modern fenestration techniques.
Secondary glazing leads the way, in no small part thanks to its unique soundproofing and draught prevention capabilities.
Industry-leader, Granada Glazing, has helped drive the sector forward with major contracts with national partners including hotel chains, museums, banks, housing associations, the NHS and other commercial bodies, whilst gaining a considerable reputation amongst heritage and residential customers, and a respected network of installers.
Whilst the high-frequency noise of aircraft taking off is greatly reduced by secondary glazing, where it really comes into its own is in blocking out low frequency sounds, in particular, road noise. Noises like these can result in actual vibration of the glazing, meaning the problem can get progressively worse. The general “rumble” of traffic noise, passing aircraft, train and railway noise, these tend to fall in the low frequency category. In these instances, secondary glazing with thicker glass, fitted correctly, can make the world of difference.
This massive impact is certainly not lost on many of Granada’s grateful customers, with comments such as ‘made a huge difference’ and ‘dramatic reduction in noise’ not uncommon.
According to the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) at the University of Southampton, the public have grown less tolerant to noise over the last 25 years. Aircraft noise in particular has been in the spotlight. Measured in EPNdB (Effective Perceived Noise in Decibels), design improvements have led to considerable reductions, but the annoyance people experience, it says, is less easy to quantify and can be caused by any number of psychological factors, including the frequency of noises and the variety of different noises heard.
In fact, it may not be up in the air at all that residents should look. As far as Heathrow’s extension is concerned, the real villain of the piece is likely to be traffic. Busier airports bring more cars, buses, taxis and lorries and as well as aircraft. Inevitably, it also brings road works – six billion pounds worth of additional work is planned for the M25 alone.
Unlike with aircraft, reducing external noise is not one of the primary drivers of innovation in the automobile industry. It would seem quite the contrary, the more expensive the car, the louder the noise. We, of course, would advocate improved acoustic soundproofing via secondary glazing, but the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has this month found its own way of tackling at least part of the problem.
Complaints about the noise from million pound supercars revving their engines around Harrods have led the council to introduce new anti-social behaviour laws. Banning Middle-Eastern princes from racing their Lamborghinis or performing stunts in their gold Ferraris will alleviate the nuisance for some, but for those living in perhaps more modest parts of town, it’s comforting to know there’s a simpler alternative to keeping the outside world at bay.