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Paul Johnston

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With higher density comes noise, so buyers are looking for buildings that offer peace and quiet

When it comes to preparing high-tech homes for sound, a new theme is emerging: Silence is golden.

“To appreciate the busy world that we live in, a world that in some cases may be overstimulated, having a place to enjoy solitude and quiet reflection is critically important,” says Nicholas Sylvestre-Williams, principal engineer at Aercoustics Engineering Ltd., in Mississauga.

Studies are showing that quietness is a significant factor for people purchasing a home, and that noise is often high on the list of complaints once people have moved into a house or condominium, he says.

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This year is the International Year of Sound, a global initiative to highlight the importance of sound and raise our understanding of sound-related issues. Increasingly, home builders are paying attention to vanguard acoustic design, which can cover everything from windows and plumbing to interior and exterior finishes.

When it comes to luxury properties, sound issues are a major consideration for buyers, says Paul Johnston, real estate sales representative for Charbonnel, a Treasure Hill Homes project of luxury townhouses on Avenue Road in Toronto. Four of Charbonnel’s 19 units are still available.

“One of the marks of any luxury development is a project that really responds to the needs and wants of the buyer,” Johnston says. “Space, style, sunlight and silence are things I talk about often. It is clear these days that people want to have a quiet living environment.”

Noise from both inside and outside the home becomes a factor when people want to be able to listen to music in different parts of the home, for instance, while still being able to ensure silence when they want it.

“There is definitely a sensitivity to the noise issue,” Johnston says.

“To ensure we are meeting a really high level of construction, commensurate with a luxury property, we believe it’s important to address these things not as an add-on or upgrade but as part of the base build.”

The Charbonnel project uses high-performance windows that in many instances are triple glazed to reduce ambient noise from outside while also making the home more environmentally efficient, he says. A resilient channel, which is a thin metal channel that weakens sound waves inside walls and ceilings, is among the many techniques used to reduce noise.

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The project uses these sound-absorbing membranes as part of the envelope of the building. Charbonnel towns also have heavy wrapping around plumbing, which reduces the sound of running water and flushing toilets, and additional acoustic measures for the mechanical room isolate its noise from the homeowners.

Mitigating sound through smart acoustic design ensures that people get the best of both worlds: a home that can be wired (or wireless) for sound, but also respects the desire for silence and privacy. Sound transmission class ratings are written into building codes.

“We’ve spent time with acoustic consultants to make sure that both the envelope of the building and the walls between homes exceed the minimum standard of code,” Johnston says.

There is a rising interest in smart home systems that can do myriad things such as control sound in different rooms, integrate home theatre, automate blinds, regulate the thermostat and more.

Janice Fox, broker of record for Hazelton Real Estate, says the technologies for smart home systems are changing rapidly and what was considered new even a year ago can be made swiftly old.

“A few years ago, it was all about the iPad and customers wanted to ensure there was a built-in docking station,” she says.

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“That’s gone. It was too cumbersome and bulky. These days they want a whole smartphone system with apps so they can do it all – unlock the door, control the thermostat, [have] a kill switch for the lights.”

But, if you want to control the noise and ensure silence in your dwelling without all the high-tech gadgetry, Fox suggests going old-school, even though it was cutting edge not long ago.

“Try putting on some noise-cancelling earphones.”


This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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