By Del Williams
For hotels and motels located near noisy streets, highways, train tracks, airports or urban city walks, keeping external noise from penetrating into what should be the quiet, peaceful sanctuary of the guestroom might seem an impossible task.
With the cacophony of loud sirens, traffic, construction, garbage and delivery trucks, aircraft and nearby nightlife, guests are often inundated with unwanted noise until the early morning hours. Even a raucous swimming pool or other common area open late for guests can be a continual source of aggravation.
Such noise can make it difficult for guests to sleep soundly, if at all, during the night or for needed daytime naps. For those conducting business in their hotel room or simply relaxing, excessive noise can lead to frustration and frayed nerves.
The fall-out is undeniable. Unhappy guests include frequent requests to change rooms, customers that vow never to return, customers demanding a refund or negative online social reviews. The negative impact to a hotel’s bottom line can be significant and result in lower bookings and a substantial decrease in revenue if the noise problem persists.
Fortunately, hospitality-specific soundproofing solutions exist that are able to address the primary culprits of noise ingress — windows and patio doors — to cut external noise by as much as 95 per cent, without replacement or major renovation.
Already utilized in thousands of rooms across North America, these cost-effective solutions in many ways still remain a “best-kept secret.”
This is primarily because there is some confusion about the possible options, which can range from replacing double pane windows to inserting sheets of Plexiglas. Available from various window suppliers, these products have a limited ability to reduce exterior noise.
As a result, many owners and managers are instead turning to the soundproofing industry for solutions engineered for maximum noise reduction to deliver true peace and quiet.
Multiple studies have shown that 90 per cent of exterior noise enters through windows, not walls. Unfortunately, simply replacing the windows seldom adequately resolves the problem.
Double- or triple-pane windows, for example, filter out only slightly more noise than single pane, if any. Although effective at insulating from external heat or cold, these products are not truly engineered for soundproofing.
“With double-pane windows, the two pieces of glass within the frame vibrate like the two tynes of a tuning fork which actually creates more noise,” explains Randy Brown, president of Soundproof Windows, a national manufacturer of window and patio door soundproofing products. “Also, the air space for both double- and triple-pane windows does very little to retard the sound vibrations.”
Brown adds that much of the noise that enters through windows comes through leaking window seals. With ag,e conventional window seals fail, so any partial relief experienced by replacing windows may be short-lived.
True Soundproofing Technology
To gain an edge over rivals, some hotels are turning to true soundproofing companies such as Soundproof Windows, Inc that have background and expertise engineering products used in the most noise sensitive environments in the world, such as recording studios.
The company has created a “second window” that can be installed easily in front of the existing windows. The product is designed specifically to match and function like the original window, no matter its design or whether it opens or closes.
This inner window essentially reduces noise from entering on three fronts: the type of materials used to make the pane, the ideal air space between original window and insert, and finally improved, long-lasting seals. The combination can reduce external noise by up to 95 per cent.
“The first noise barrier is laminated glass, which dampens sound vibration much like a finger on a wine glass stops it from ringing when struck,” explains Brown. “An inner PVB layer of plastic further dampens sound vibrations.”
Air space of two to four inches between the existing window and the soundproof window also significantly improves noise reduction because it isolates the window frame from external sound vibrations.
Finally, the company places spring-loaded seals in the second window frame. “This puts a constant squeeze on the glass panels, which prevents sound leaks and helps to stop noise from vibrating through the glass,” explains Brown.
When choosing such soundproofed windows for a hotel project, Brown adds that the most objective measure of sound reduction is the window’s Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. In this rating system, the higher the number, the more noise is stopped.
A typical rating for standard windows is 26 to 28, for example. The acoustic soundproof windows, by comparison, earn a 48 to 54 STC rating.
Since external noise can also enter sliding glass doors, which are common on ground-floor hotel rooms or upper-level rooms with patios, similar soundproofing strategies can also be effectively applied in these applications.
Like the soundproof windows, a second sliding glass door can be added, but mounted either inside or outside an existing sliding glass door. This can eliminate up to 95 per cent of external noise entering through the patio door.
Additional Energy Savings
Soundproofing hotel windows and sliding glass doors can also provide benefits in reducing energy costs. Adding the inner window provides an additional layer of insulation, which can reduce the heating-cooling portion of energy bills by 15 to 30 per cent.
When the 11-story, 144-room Four Diamond Hotel in downtown Houston, Texas protected a number of its windows from external noise with Soundproof Windows, the energy savings were substantial.
A detailed one-year study showed the hotel saved $2.11 in energy savings per occupied room night. This amounted to 15.7 per cent per occupied room night for an ROI of 22.6 per cent over 4.37 years. The hotel has electric air conditioning, natural gas heating and dual pane windows. Energy use was tracked following installation from September 2007 thru August 2008, and compared to the same months of previous year.
Whether hotel owners and managers seek to protect their customers from stressful external noise intrusion, offer more peace and quiet, or significantly reduce heating-cooling related energy costs, economically soundproofing existing windows, rather than replacing them, can provide a real competitive edge.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.