There are no Federal regulations specifying what materials can be used to create sound barriers along any stretch of U.S. highway. State DOT officials choose the type of highway traffic barriers that go up along their district roadways, often basing their decision on multiple factors such as budget, aesthetics, durability, maintenance and public input.
The American public has a love-hate relationship with highway noise barriers. Those living closest to noisy highways and rail tracks are most appreciative of sound barriers, which offer them the benefits of increased privacy, better views, a quieter living environment and a healthier lifestyle.
A primary consideration when determining the appropriate design for a noise barrier is the visual impact it will have on the area. Placing a tall barrier adjacent to communities with one-story homes can impede the view and the whole aesthetic dynamic. When it comes to addressing the noise barrier size issue in these communities, one answer is to provide staggered elements, such as native vegetation and other appropriate landscape, to the foreground to reduce the barrier’s visual impact.
Planning the placement of sound barriers is extremely important when it comes to retaining a visually pleasing value within the neighborhood. One rule of thumb that is often adhered to is to locate the noise barrier approximately four times its height from adjacent homes and buildings, and to install landscaping close to the barrier.
Ideally, highway sound barriers should harmonize with their surroundings as much as possible. Some sound abatement materials used in highway barriers are more adaptable than others; in addition to visual considerations, planners look for sound barrier materials that are low maintenance, easily installed and durable.
Sound barriers can have a psychological effect on motorists, a factor that is considered in the design process. The design of noise barriers in dense urban settings will be different than the barriers installed in rural and suburban areas. On urban highways, sound barriers need to be designed to avoid monotony for the motorists, who tend to notice things like surface texture, overall form and color. DOT planners have found that by varying the materials
, forms and surface treatments of the barriers, they can combat the “tunnel effect” that motorists experience driving long stretches alongside an unchanging sound barrier wall.
Graffiti is always a potential problem with noise barriers. Using a sound barrier material that can be easily washed or painted is an excellent preventative measure that planners can take, particularly in areas where graffiti is probably going to be an issue.
Vegetation, if it is dense and tall, can provide a very small measure of noise dampening, but not nearly enough to achieve any serious noise reduction
along a busy highway. The best idea is to use trees and vegetation to camouflage the barrier for a visually pleasing solution to highway noise.
Most people who live or work near a highway noise barrier are pleased with the reduced levels of traffic noise, and there is a general consensus that the benefits provided by highway noise barriers far outweigh their disadvantages. While noise barriers do not completely eliminate all highway traffic noise, they do reduce it substantially and improve the quality of life for those who live and work next to busy highways or train rails.
A great restaurant provides a retreat, if only for an hour or two, where guests can relax and savor their favorite meals while socializing with friends and family. Customers will return again and again to a restaurant that provides consistently good meals, excellent service, and a pleasant atmosphere.
Let’s face it, the competition for patrons among restaurants is fierce. Only the most hypervigilant restaurateur will succeed in creating and maintaining a loyal customer base.
Restaurant patrons demand the obvious: great tasting meals and attentive and friendly service. They also expect pleasant surroundings, where they can relax, carry on a conversation and savor their meal without irritating distractions. Smoking, a huge spoiler for restaurant patrons in the past, has been banned in almost every U.S. restaurant. And, while it’s easy for most restaurant owners and managers to see to it that diners are not bothered by second hand smoke, the same cannot be said for irritating second-hand noise.
High noise levels in a restaurant can drive business elsewhere, making it imperative for restaurant owners to take measures to minimize unwanted sound throughout their dining areas. Some restaurant owners implement noise reduction strategies during the design phase of their space and install sound deadening material under the drywall, floors and ceilings during construction or renovation. However, not all have built-in sound deadening material in place when they open their doors for business.
Restaurants are particularly vulnerable to annoying noise levels due to a combination of acoustic challenges: multiple groups of guests carrying on conversations, often at accelerated volumes, in order to be heard over the din; echo and reverberation from the abundance of reflective surfaces commonly used in restaurant décor and equipment (tables, countertops, kitchen equipment, walls and floors), intensify sound reverberations throughout the establishment.
Restaurant owners need to make noise reduction a top priority if they are to be able to compete with other restaurants for return customers.
Reverberation, which is a primary culprit in a noisy restaurant due to the multitude of solid surfaces, can be minimized dramatically when the proper sound dampening product is put in place. Although soundproofing materials will not entirely eliminate ambient noise, they will absorb excess sounds and reduce the overall decibel level, thus providing a pleasant environment for diners to socialize and relax in relative peace.
Soundproofing panels and material designed to be wall mounted can be custom fitted for use in specific areas. However, wall panels and acoustical material are often not an option as they may interfere with the restaurant’s décor, or because they require invasive installation methods (tearing out drywall or flooring).
Easy-to-install sound deadening solutions are available and popular for restaurant use. High sound absorbency QuietFiber is a two-inch thick DIY interior noise solution from that can be cut to fit and simply hot glued underneath the bar, cabinets, countertops, tables, chairs, behind a wall tapestry or curtains. Slide a QuietFiber “pillow” on top of cabinets, or anywhere else that noise is a problem and peaceful surroundings are a must. Easily cut to size with a serrated knife, QuietFiber can be concealed almost anywhere
Restaurateurs who have identified a noise problem that may be affecting business adversely would do well to consult a reputable company that specializes in troubleshooting and resolving noise problems. A noise consultant will be able to identify all the variables that combine to create a noise problem, and provide options for effective solutions that can be easily implemented.
Remember, they key to building a repeat customer base is to offer an environment that provides maximum comfort and satisfaction to its patrons. When the customers are happy, they come back -- the key to a restaurant’s long-term success.