Sector Insight: Project Risk in Construction

For large construction projects like Crossrail, Thames Tideway and HS2, construction noise and vibration are key project risks, given the potential for costly delays due to Local Authority controls, community impacts, adverse publicity, legal challenge and punitive action.

The Local Authority has the power to suspend works in response to noise and vibration issues. The Section 61 process allows the constructor and the Local Authority to pre-agree noise control measures and limits, reducing project risk for the contractor and guaranteeing acceptable levels of noise for the local community. Establishing a relationship and gaining an early consent from the Local Authority is critical to the success of that project.

It is industry-standard practice to appoint an acoustic consultant, like Anderson Acoustics, who have the construction noise expertise, equipment and experience to manage any risks and minimise project costs.

Working as part of the constructor’s team, we not only bring specialist technical skills, but also essential experience in managing the wider stakeholder community. With experience of working across multiple clients, we promote innovation, best practice and continuous improvement and build a wider and deeper understanding of applicable legislation for the benefit of all parties.

In monitoring noise levels on behalf of clients, we act as an independent reference point for identifying noise issues, handling complaints, liaising with local stakeholders, attending local community forums and agreeing action plans with local authorities. Our independence represents significant value in building trust and resolving issues with stakeholders.

Sources of Noise

Construction noise comes in various forms. Site planning is critical to ensure permanent site services such as generators, site delivery access, offices and workshops are optimally located to minimise noise exposure to the local community. The ability to acoustically model the site, overlaid with geographic data on the local population, is critical to how we assess and predict the potential impacts.

Site design can benefit from early engagement with acousticians to review and advise on placement of equipment, plant, stockpiles/overburden and cabins within the site to benefit from natural mitigation (e.g. screening from existing structures).

The selection of low noise and vibration work methods and plant, combined with the control of working hours are key elements in the mitigation of construction noise. The use of enclosures and noise barriers is then considered as well as siting plant the maximum distance from the nearest receptors. Acoustics sheds and barriers can be constructed over permanent noise sources and mobile acoustic screening can be installed for plant and machinery around the site.

Site workers also play a critical role in controlling the noise they create. We work with clients to promote a culture of noise awareness across their organisation through toolbox talks, posters and continuing professional development (CPD) courses.

In situations where excessive noise is deemed unavoidable, plans will be drawn up for the provision of noise insulation for local residents, and in extreme cases, temporary housing.

Community Relations & Non Acoustic Factors

Construction noise, vibration and air quality go hand in hand with community relations as they represent the chief concerns of local communities. Our experience has shown that when communities feel that their best interests are being considered, there is a greater reduction in complaints than with noise reduction alone.

Community impacts are inevitable and just because consent has been granted through Section 61 and stated targets have been met, it does not mean that local people will not be annoyed by these issues. Annoyance from noise is often less about the noise level itself and more about whether people feel they have been treated with respect, with an opportunity to be involved in the process and for their voice to be heard. We are experts at this personal aspect of acoustics. Open, transparent engagement with the local community at the very earliest stages is essential, with ongoing discussion and involvement as works progress.

Anderson Acoustics has a community response team that can act as a first line response on behalf of constructors, handling complaints and requests for information. This service can be extended to include proactive community engagement to ensure that members of the public have open channels of communication, feel that they have a voice and are well informed, and to act as a coordinating interface with organised community forums.

From the constructor’s perspective, this can be a flexible, low cost way of managing complaints and community relations, across a fast moving portfolio of sites and using a team that sits independently and has direct access to professional construction noise acousticians.

Working with Stakeholders

Building strong productive relationships with stakeholders is a key way of managing the risks relating to noise and vibration. These relationships are built through collaborative working and transparent engagement with stakeholders, and very often by building on existing relationships formed on previous projects.

When negotiating with local authorities, we limit costs and risks by leveraging these strong collaborative stakeholder relationships, being aware of past precedents on similar projects and using our specialist acoustic knowledge to negotiate technically. We issue constructive and respectful challenges to unreasonable local authorities’ requests when appropriate.

Project Activities

A typical construction noise project starts with an assessment of the noise and vibration risks and identifying the best practicable means (BPM) of minimising noise. The site environment, plant types and location are acoustically modelled to predict noise levels at the closest receptors. This is often an iterative process to identify the optimum site configuration from a noise perspective, against which noise insulation strategies and noise trigger limits are set.

In parallel, baseline monitoring measurements are taken to identify the background noise in the area and effectively calibrate the impact of additional noise caused by construction. At this stage, a Section 61 application is made to the Local Authority to effectively obtain pre-approval based on the proposed conditions and commitments.

With approval, construction can start and continue unhindered. Perimeter noise monitoring is undertaken for the duration of the works, and any exceedances against the trigger noise limits are reported and managed to resolution.

Delivering Cost Savings

Noise is often directly proportional to productivity and profit. In reducing and mitigating noise we can play an active part in maximising the productivity of the site. As an example, for Crossrail, Anderson Acoustics identified critical measures for the Tunnel Boring Machine, Temporary Construction Railway and Sprayed Concrete Lining, which increased the rate of construction within the noise constraints imposed by the Local Authority.

Excellence in Construction Noise

Anderson Acoustics have one of the leading construction noise and vibration teams in the UK. Working with clients including Crossrail, Network Rail, Amey, Kier, BAM Nuttall, Morgan Sindall and Balfour Beatty, we have unrivalled experience in construction noise management for major tunnelling and rail infrastructure projects in densely populated urban environments.

With have extensive experience in the environmental planning process to ensure the best possible relationship with Local Authorities and our customer engagement team can proactively work with local communities to minimise perceived impacts.

As one of the largest independent specialist acoustic consultancies we have the people, capacity, resources, experience and technical capability to support projects large and small.

Our approach is proudly “beyond dB” – that is, not just presenting and calculating what the noise and vibration impact will be and gaining consent, but proactively engaging and integrating with the design and construction team to better manage noise and vibration impacts, at the start of the process. Once the works are undertaken, we constantly monitor and actively review the impacts.

Our mission is to apply acoustics for a better future. We are proud to help clients balance the economic, social and environmental impacts of their projects whilst minimising risk and cost associated with construction noise. We strive for maximum operational efficiency and aim to add bottom line value through our expert advice.

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help with your next construction project.

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Brighton: 01273 696887London: 0203 176 7909 hello@andersonacoustics.co.uk

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