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If the constant hiss of air-conditioning units, the throng of traffic or the relentless rumbles in construction sites are familiar disturbances in your UAE home, you are not alone.
Imran Choudhary, Managing Partner of Swiftrooms, believes noise pollution is such a big issue that his business has come up with a Turn Down the Volume campaign in response.
With the mantra, “just because the city never sleeps, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to”, Choudhary’s company provides sound insulation from the elements, in the form of windows, doors and conservatories.
The British businessman says many residents are now actively looking for solutions to the noise problem. “We have had an increasing number of inquiries from fed-up tenants and property owners who have had enough of urban sound affecting their daily lives.”
Choudhary’s clients come from all over the UAE, but he says he is now seeing concerns being raised in many popular areas such as Downtown Dubai.
“Several customers living in Business Bay, Downtown Dubai and in particular [buildings in] the Old Town district have had unplasticised
PVC secondary glazing installed,” says Choudhary. “Urban noise pollution is increasing, with cars beeping and zooming up and down Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Boulevard.
Couple this with the sprawl of construction within Business Bay and the Downtown areas, and we cannot expect the noise levels to get any better for a while.”
Merete Broen, General Manager of design company Zen Interiors, reveals that noise pollution affects about 30 per cent of her clients. She believes that living in a noisy environment can have far-reaching health and psychological damages.
“Global studies have shown that noise is considered one of the most dangerous types of environmental pollution to public health, and has a negative effect on the audio, neurological and digestive tract of the human body,” says Broen.
With construction being one of the main causes of noise pollution in the UAE, are developers doing enough to minimise the impact of new projects? Niall McLoughlin, Senior Vice-President of Damac Properties, cites Damac Towers by Paramount project in the Burj Area of Dubai, as an illustration of the company’s commitment to the problem. He reveals that the project has signed up to the Earth-Check environmental certification and benchmarking system and aims to achieve a high rating.
“As a leading luxury developer, Damac Properties takes its responsibilities to the environment very seriously. This includes ensuring minimal dust and particle propagation from the site, and limiting the construction noise pollution,” he says.
To ensure that contractors are sticking to Damac’s stringent standards, the business also employs a team of managers who are called upon to independently inspect projects, unannounced, during construction. “The designated Damac Properties project manager has been provided with full authority to issue reports, stop work and impose fines should designated [health and safety] policies not be followed,” McLoughlin says.
Imran Choudhary is unimpressed with the quality of materials he has encountered at some properties and believes that this could be related to developers’ short-term commitment to projects. He says some are largely financially motivated, and have cut costs, often at the expense of the end user.
“We often find that the glass and frames in windows and doors are of inferior quality, often made of poor grade aluminium, and they often leak — whether that’s letting in dust from sandstorms, water from strong rains, heat in the summer months or noise from outside. This is particularly a problem with aluminium-framed sliding windows and doors.”
Aside from quality issues, some properties might need updating simply because of their age.
Choudhary refers to a recent example of a client in an older villa in Satwa. Following the opening of a new neighbouring mosque, the customer’s young children were often awoken by morning prayer, so his business was called in to provide additional soundproofing.
As well as adding value to a property, Choudhary says newwindows and doors have additional benefits. “The client also commented that the heat resisting properties of the glass and UPVC framing has made a significant difference to the indoor temperature — even without the air conditioning being on.”
Broen does not believe residents should resign themselves to living with noise pollution and says her business offers a number of solutions. She suggests using materials such as glass wool, elastomeric foams, rock wool or coconut fibre in walls, which are both environmentally friendly and provide additional sound insulation.
“We could install wall doubles with one of these materials, or focus on the floor treatments by fitting parquet or ceramic tiles on top of a thick layer of sand. Rubber coatings are also widely used, as well as plush carpets and floating floors — consisting of boards nailed to batons, which rest on an extended layer of flexible material on the concrete mezzanine,” she says.
Broen also recommends installing suspended ceilings, which greatly reduces acoustic interference from air conditioning.
Western customers make up the majority of Swift-rooms client base, although Choudhary says they also create glass rooms for royal families and major hotels in the region. Subsequently a significant portion of his clients are renting their properties. But he says this should not prevent tenants from raising any concerns with their landlords.
“People shouldn’t have to suffer sleepless nights and disturbed evenings and weekends by a roaring motorway or deafening [construction] site nearby. If you are a tenant, you should create a dialogue with your landlord and address your issues, requesting they help you solve the sound problem,” he says.
One of the major interferences that clients face is the construction of a new building in their existing homes’ immediate vicinity. Choudhary explains, “We are finding that in urban communities [in particular], there is little space being left between buildings.
“We often enter into a dialogue with tenants and their landlords and can offer a quick, easy and affordable solution so that tenants are happy to remain in the apartment and landlords are not left with an empty and undesirable property.”
Broen believes that the issue of noise pollution can be solved simply by the type of property that you choose to live in.
“If a client is looking for a new property but hasn’t yet made a choice, we would advise to only buy an apartment with a high level of technical finishing — such as special insulation on the walls, floors and ceilings as well as ensuring that windows are sealed with a special material.”
Swiftrooms, which has been operating in the UK for 25 years, saw a gap in the UAE market and opened in Dubai in 2010. The company has since seen a steady number of its clients voice concerns about noise pollution.
Imran Choudhary attributes this trend to his clientele’s increasingly busy schedules and the large number of young professionals residing in the UAE.
“Certainly in the expat community, many people are in high-stress positions where long hours and increasing work demands are the norm,” he says. “In addition, the UAE attracts many young families with children and babies. A peaceful home where a good night’s sleep can be achieved is [therefore] absolutely vital.”
Source: Peter Feely, Special to Property Weekly