Noisy neighbours: Kiwi engineers create new soundproofing for city apartments

  • 27/01/2020

By Isabella Durant

A group of engineers may have found an achievable solution to a problem faced by many city dwellers - noisy neighbours. 

They've been given funding to create a new kind of soundproofing material, specifically designed for homes and apartment buildings.

Auckland resident and musician Joshua Montgomery is passionate about playing the bagpipes - unfortunately, his neighbours aren't so supportive.

"I've played the bagpipes for a good 22 years, since I was a kid. I obviously grew up in a family home where there was no problem [with playing them]... [now] I'm very wary of how loud they are," he told Newshub.

"It will definitely be annoying people."

Audio engineer Andrew Hall and his team may have found a solution for thousands of apartment dwellers separated by paper-thin walls. It comes down to a new material the engineers have been given a $1 million grant to develop.

The aim is to reduce vibration in the walls caused by sound while taking up minimal wall space.

"For too long we've had problems with low-frequency sound in our rooms, so the inspiration of this project is a phenomenon in our lightweight timber partitions that we use in New Zealand," Hall told Newshub.

The project will involve an intense testing process looking at different levels of frequency. 

To deal with high frequency sounds like talking and cutlery clinking, they intend to disrupt the soundwaves with grooves and buttons on the surface of the wall.

To tackle low frequency sounds like reggae or other bass-heavy music with much larger soundwaves, they'll use helmholtz resonators inside the walls. They're hollow, like a bottle or Christmas ball decoration, and absorb the sounds.

"We have windows, curtains and walls for optical or visual privacy - why can't we have the same thing for sound?" Hall said.

This development will mean musicians like Joshua Montgomery will be able to practice as they please.

"I generally take my bagpipes to work and practice in the basement - there's no one to annoy there," Montgomery said.

"If I was able to practice at home for half an hour every night without annoying people, that would be awesome."