I live in SF, and when I was dating my GF (now wife), she had an apt on a busy street (Oak Street); I live in an in-law garden unit. The first time I slept over at her place, I got barely any sleep. When she slept over at my place, all she heard was birds, leaves and the very occasional Harley or emergency vehicle. When she slept over, she woke up feeling so much better. So when it came time to move in together, there was no question where she wanted to be!
On that topic: I wish we could have acoustical limits on vehicle noise. Those loud motorcycles with the fat pipes: they seriously need to control those.
Those exhausts are already illegal, but the punishments are a joke and the enforcement is non-existent.
In most places they're not. The sound limit is quite high.
It would be a nice start if national parks started turning them away at the gate, as Glacier NP has talked about doing. I'll laugh my ass off when I see Harley and Harley-wannabe riders doing u-turns at national park entrances.
At least in Seattle, there is an ordinance, but it isn't enforced often, and the most clear rules are some silly "if you can hear a sound system from 75 feet away from a car 'clearly'".
I reached out to the public non-emergency PR part of our police dept, essentially their summary was 2-fold, as I remember:
1. The most common noise enforcement calls were construction vehicles and semi trucks using jake brakes, both of which were a priority when there was opportunity to enforce (i.e. a pattern)
2. Many vehicles are very loud, whether legally authorized or not: sirens and emergency vehicles, Harley's, etc. Vehicle enforcement is rare. (They would not say never enforced, but that's the feeling I got)
In my opinion, the only thing louder than the motorcycles were all of the city buses. :(
Once all of the D60HFs/D40LFs are gone, the problem should be solved.
i don't buy it. people who run from cops get the helicopter called on them. loud bikers have always gotten a pass from cops for some reason. it's another example of uneven enforcement of laws which erodes the confidence and trust people have in police.
To be clear though I don't think that's the reason loudness isn't enforced. I imagine it more has to do with the fact that they aren't watching for it since they don't have any way to easily test it like speed.
But one can most certainly outrun a radio.
Seriously bikes run from cops all the time. They're gone in a flash.
A representative example off GIS: http://www.v6mustang.com/attachments/dsc00087-jpg.35600/
For me, I'll have to try using earplugs more, but the stress on my ears isn't so nice because I'm a side sleeper. I wish I could just go to bed earlier, but I work on a remote team which is half in LA, and it would be counterproductive if I wasn't able to stay up past 10-11 PM... not to mention my schedule would conflict with that of my friends and roommates.
They work by increasing the volume of the background noise. Sounds that would normally affect or you sleep end up blending in with the background noise.
I use that one, Darkness, overall volume up a little and first two sliders down a little. Works like a charm.
German company, but available in the US: http://www.amazon.com/Ohropax-Reusable-cotton-Plugs-Carrying...
I tried two pairs of these Radians and couldn't get them to work well. They don't form a proper seal I think, not exactly sure. Def. not as effective as normal ear plugs when it comes to blocking out sound for me. I'm not sure if I did something wrong during the molding process or my ear shape is somehow incompatible with them but I did carefully try twice to no avail.
I may look into getting some custom molded silicone sleep plugs in the future, I have some noise attenuating ones already for concerts and they're pretty comfortable.
You can take a pair of scissors and slightly trim from the big (non-rounded) end, so that they aren't long enough to interfere with side sleeping, but they are still long enough that you can easily pull them out in the morning.
I haven't tried custom silicone earplugs, but these disposable ones are very soft and comfortable. You twirl them into a smaller thickness and they gently expand once you insert them.
I started using them a number of years ago when the guy in the house next door got a very loud dog that he insisted stay outside at night and/or early morning. So of course the dog did nothing but whine and bark! Fortunately he finally got rid of the dog.
A single "disposable" pair of plugs can last a week, or even a month if you want. The sound effectiveness decreases slightly over multiple uses. But that's OK. They start out really quiet, they claim something close to 30 dB. So if they're only 15 dB after multiple uses, that's OK. You probably don't want total isolation anyway.
It looks like it's not earplugs, but sensory deprivation that can cause tinnitus. If you're listening to a normal volume of noise for at least a few hours a days, it won't be a problem.
Good luck with that. It's fairly common for riders to knock the baffles out of the tail pipes to intentionally make them louder. That's why police officers can be seen sticking their battons up those fat tail pipes as a check. Whatever new tech one could make will surely be circumvented too.
I'm fairly certain there will be in your country. There are in the UK at least - it's a requirement that's supposedly checked when vehicles have their annual roadworthiness test. The problem is A) it's a subjective measure, open to the testers judgement and B) there's nothing stopping the owner re-tuning their vehicle before & after the test to get a pass. So ultimately, it's just not policed.
Let me preface this with "I do not have any data to back this up" but my gut tells me about 90% of road noise is caused by 10% of traffic. In London at least.
"Those loud motorcycles with the fat pipes: they seriously need to control those."
I'm totally with you on these, but really it's any of these two-stroke bastards, even mopeds these days. The fashion is to tune them to the point of nuisance.
I'm guessing you meant on account of the noise. And weren't referring to a great next of sexy fun.
Few things I learned: 1). It doesn't have to be expensive. My problem was that I live in a 2BR apartment with a wonderful roommate -- but we share a bedroom wall, and that wall is thin. So you can imagine the....awkwardness...at times.
I got quotes from various soundproofing specialists that ranged from $10k to $25k (!!!) to thicken the shared wall and reinforce the bedroom doors. Hogwash. I did some research, bought some raw materials (Green Glue, QuietRock sheetrock, solid-core doors, door seals) and did the whole thing for a fraction of that price.
2) Sound science is fascinating and DIY projects like this are kinda fun :) I've never been much of a DIYer around the home, but it takes on a whole new appeal when you have a clean end goal in mind and your quality of life takes a major improvement when the mission is completed.
Anyway -- this is a fascinating subject and I'm happy to geek out about it with anyone who's interested.
Solid-core doors -- even ones filled with dense fiberboard (vs pure solid wood) are VERY effective at reducing sound. And they're cheap -- you can get a nice basic one for ~$100. If you pad the door frame with $5 in closed-cell weatherstripping and put in a $10 door sweep at the bottom (creating a nice seal around the door), you've eliminated one of the lowest-hanging fruits of sound transmission for very little $.
Next on the list: Green Glue. If you don't mind a bit of messy DIY stuff, you can make your own drywall/Green Glue sandwich for a very reasonable amount of $.
Doors & Walls cover about 80% of sound issues, and it doesn't have to be expensive.
> air-conditioning units (which are basically unrestricted openings to the street)
Window air conditioning units are virtually unknown in a large part of the warm weather world. We use "split systems," where only a couple thin pipes and some wires connect the outdoors with the indoors. NYC's fascination with inefficient window units is really quite strange. I suppose landlords enjoy not having to pay for installation and maintenance of permanent units.
Fascination is not the right word. As you correctly assert, landlords have no interest in installing permanent AC, so my window unit is my only option, and it isn't particularly fascinating.
Really, installation takes less than an hour and the rest of the world think Americans are bizarre with the window units.
Sure you are! Or, well, you could. I lived in Chicago condo that had 20 or so one-per external units on the roof.
Some arguments in favor of this approach here:
But hanging a window A/C out into the street? Somehow this does not affect historicity and so no approval is required.
I'm vague on whether the rules apply to non-street facing installations (I live at the back of my building), but I don't know if I can be bothered to spend the money to find out. So window A/C it is.
On one hand in my bachelor pad apartment a really bad August was like $40 of electricity for cooling, on the other hand times 40 apartments, I'm sure the owner would prefer "we" pay instead of him.
There's a lot of history that got us here. One of the outcomes/legacies of this stuff is rent regulation, and the standards of operation there extend into unregulated apartments as well.
With a proper working housing market the landlord might have an incentive to fix (because people just won't rent from your wrecked place if they can get a better place for the same money) - but given the housing shortage in cities like NYC, even a run down shack is better than sleeping in the park.
Two, some steam apartments don't have a unit at all, just a pipe from floor to ceiling. Older tenements feature these (the one I'm living in now has one, for example.) If you want to adjust the temperature with this, your only choices are A/C or the window. These apartments were just built this way, and this was likely the cheapest/only tech available at the time.
The reason we heat with full-apartment systems and cool individually is that landlords are required to pay for heating (and hot water) but don't want to pay for cooling.
In any case, almost nobody in NYC uses the sort of split system so common everywhere else. Older buildings are left with window units, while new buildings have built-in units, often with the most horrible control panels you can imagine from some dudes in New Jersey.
I'm sure there are smart mechanical engineers working on vibration free AC units, but until then I'm looking for a house.
The rest is just politics - those who pay for the conditioning system are not the ones who suffer from the noise - and even if they were, they have no competence to differentiate.
Maybe if apartments had noise ratings, and they could charge neighboring buildings for the measurable loss of worth from noise. Maybe there are precedents from airfield politics.
Also NYC does a lot of older structures that would be too costly to retrofit
I think a lot of people are overlooking a solution that would improve quality of life: Make it easier to punish noisy people.
Even when I've lived near busy streets like Van Ness, most of my annoyances have come from inside the building, not outside. It's amazing how much grief a careless neighbor can inflict on the dozens around them. All it takes is a subwoofer and a taste for bass. Even if multiple neighbors complain, there's little that can be done. In my case, most of the neighbors –including myself– gave up and moved. Had the laws been more reasonable, the only one moving would be the cause of the nuisance.
The choices in these cases are passive-aggressive notes in the lobby, or direct confrontation at 3AM when the bass is pumping, which is what it usually comes down to, unfortunately.
The worst buildings were probably built from the end of WWII to the early 1970s. Stuyvesant Town apartments, for example, are terribly noisy.
But for a good part of my adult life I lived in apartment buildings. Except where I was lucky (for example, living for a year in a top-floor Chicago apartment sharing a wall with an absentee neighbor), I've had many problems with inside-building noises due to other residents. I know well the subwoofer-bass problem, the sounds of a television traveling from the ceiling or floor, the sounds of footsteps and chairs scraping across the floor above. All horrible. But external city noises have mostly not been a problem.
And that’s when you make concrete walls mandatory.
> I'd rather make it illegal to build paper-thin walls.
Let's say you manage to pass a law forcing all new construction to have excellent soundproofing. That won't fix the problem for a century. Buildings last a really long time. Heck, tons of old buildings still have asbestos or lead paint. I seriously doubt their soundproofing is going to be fixed before those. Punishing noisy people is the only solution that works with our existing infrastructure.
Of course, that's moot if supply is artificially restricted to the point where renters have no choice where to live, but not all cities have that problem.
We have one of them in my office, it's uncanny how much noise they block.
I could see one of these being made in various bed sizes and have some integrated shelving & lighting to act as a nightstand. They have versions that look like hardwood panelling, they look pretty cool.
You could still get lots of sunlight since they are mostly window on two sides. I think they would need a side window version and a vertical window version depending on the orientation of windows in your bedroom.
It would solve one class of noise problems for sure!
 DIY solution: http://www.soundproofing.org/infopages/portable_sound_contro...
And how would ventilation work? The box is powered, with its own climate control? What about safety such as waking suddenly in the dark and cracking your head on your sound proof box, or needing a quick exit in emergency?
Nobody wants a very large ugly thing in their small bedroom, used only sometimes. Can it be folded away? Unlikely.
Sorry, but a sound proof box for sleeping in is the worst idea I've heard in a long time!! Funny though. A better idea is noise cancelling headphones which can be worn in bed - soft, no hard edges or wires so can sleep on your side without issue.
That's probably what most people said about twitter the first time they heard about it. I suspect there's a way to make this concept work quite nicely. After all, people also don't mind spending a lot of time in cars, which are also air-controlled soundproofed boxes.
And the topic here is sound proofing an apartment. Think about how small an apartment bedroom is, and imagine installing a pod big enough, heavy enough and practical for moving out of the way when you don't need it. Wouldn't work. Forget about it!
...unless the "pod" only covers your head somehow, "cone of silence style" while you sleep. There might be something in that, but a pod for your whole body is not practical in an apartment bedroom.
But as you say, not for an apartment - which is the point of this topic on sound proofing.
Maybe even have a curved screen on top and have a picture of the stars (or anything you like).
Noise, vibration, light pollution (e.g., excessively bright white LED street lamps) is something more people will deal with as urbanization increases. Also, when you have a lot of neighbors in close proximity someone will keep you from getting sleep. Whenever I meet a grumpy neighbor I now assume they are sleep deprived.
If you are sitting, then noise cancelation headphones are a hygenic alternative. But this does work for mosr sleeping positions.
Your eustachian tubes that connect the back of your throat to your inner ear aren't affect by ear plugs. Your ear drum seals your inner ear from your outer ear.
Heck, you can always use products like this that seem to be sufficient http://www.amazon.com/Hibermate-Sleeping-Luxurious-Exterior-...
I actually hear people coming in and out of the condo more than the highway.
FYI, trees don't block sound unless the strand is extremely dense and at least 100-ft thick. Their value is more psychological (out-of-sight, out-of-mind) than physical in reducing the perception of noise.
It's amazing how oblivious some people are to the fact that every step they take is actually a huge stomp. I'm surprised their ankles don't shatter from repeatedly hammering their full body weight down onto their heels.
Isn't it uncomfortable for them to use their heels like pistons? How does it not hurt?
At least in Europe it is considered almost always.
But seriously, this sounds like a vicious cycle:
1. Streets are too loud.
2. So you move further away, use car instead of walking.
3. Streets are even louder.
4. Even more people move into the suburbs.
I should have appended "in the USA" to that sentence. Europe is far, far ahead of us in terms of addressing noise in general and transportation noise in particular.
For example, many Americans may have noticed that kitchen/home appliances (dishwashers, washing machines, etc) have gotten significantly quieter over the last decade or so. The reason for that is that an EU directive set maximum noise levels for common appliances. Because many manufacturers sell the same units to the US and to Europe, they designed all of their products to meet the noise spec and we Americans got the benefit.
In terms of transportation noise, I am continually blown away by the public and private sector support consultants in western Europe get in support of noise analysis and noise mapping. I've seen projects in Europe spend more money address flow noise from a high-speed rail door handle than we get addressing noise over an entire rail corridor.
For more technical treatments, my go-to books are Leo Beranek's "Acoustics" (or Beranek's "Noise and Vibration Control" if you just care about the noise control aspect) and "Fundamentals of Acoustics" by Kinsler and Frey.
Shining a flashlight on them is freaking hilarious.
But these windows at about 500$ do a pretty good job.
First, the housing stock is old. It’s hard to build new, mostly for zoning reasons. Old building will be more leaky and creaky.
Unlike most of the country, even new construction does not include central air, and often does not include central heating. They use wall units called PTACs, even in “luxury” buildings. These units are loud.
NYC is dense, which means each neighbor’s noise matters more, including our automotive “neighbors”.
That said, sirens are far and away the biggest problem. They are loud enough to distort in one’s own ears. Well over 100db at street level. Apartments are close to the street. And clogged streets means emergency vehicles move slowly, while screaming.
Reducing this outlier would be the single biggest win, even over car traffic, which is comparatively benign.
For this reason, much of the sought-after stock in NYC are townhouses that were built for, and occupied by, particular families and then later subdivided.