Resolving industrial noise complaints is a time-consuming and resource-hungry activity for Local Authority environmental health officers and for Environment Agency staff - not to mention for the company involved. This is a problem exacerbated by the poor quality of most noise consultant reports (independent surveys indicate that c 80% - 90% of such reports are totally inadequate). Consequently, these projects eat staff time and complainants suffer needless stress for years when the problems could, and should, be resolved in weeks or months.
An increasing number of EHOs and EAs (both in the UK and across the world) have found that the most effective approach is to make use of our remote diagnosis and noise control option services to outsource the high time and cost project elements to the INVC.
This reduces typical industrial noise complaint resolution time from many months or even years down to a few weeks and decimates the staff time required to manage the process. The complainants benefit as the nuisance is eliminated quickly and the culprit companies also benefit as mitigation costs are typically reduced by 50% - 90%.
The process is surprisingly simple. It is based on innovative technology that allows us to diagnose the precise cause(s) of most noise complaints from smartphone video clips and photos sent by email. We then pass the results through the largest noise control example database in the world to determine, and cost, the best practice noise mitigation options. This process usually takes a few hours - or a few days if we're busy.
"We're not allowed to recommend..."
The service provides an objective diagnosis and evaluation of current Best Practicable Means (BPM). We don't manufacture, we have no products. We simply provide an expert opinion as to the precise cause of the complaints and the alternative noise control options with costs. The commercial element kicks in only when the organisation making the noise decides our option is preferable to the quotes they have had for conventional noise reduction measures. We then provide detailed recommendations for local manufacture - with a guarantee that it will resolve the problem (as far as we know, no one else provides such a guarantee...).
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Sadly, many of the referrals we get are for projects that have already gone badly wrong, along the lines of: "Why don't you see if the INVC can come up with an alternative to the costly quote you're are resisting as there is no guarantee it will be successful" or "The noise control measures you've installed haven't worked. See if the INVC can help..."
Most industrial plant noise complaints can be resolved very quickly using the following procedure.
We then analyse the data, diagnose the precise cause of the nuisance (frequency characteristics etc), link it to the mechanical details of the source(s) and determine the best options to excise just the noise elements causing the nuisance (using a noise control scalpel rather than the typical conventional acoustic enclosure, silencer, barrier bludgeon).
Our current record from first phone contact to smartphone analysis to the solution being in the hands of the noise maker is 6 hours (cooling tower gearbox noise)...
"I have investigated many varying noise complaints due to operation of fans, extract ventilation ducts, air heat source pumps, grain dryers, log cutting and industrial noise sources such as refrigerated lorry electrical hook up points, humming noise. Whilst BS4142 informs the investigating officer whether complaints are likely or not, it does not necessarily give sufficient information to resolve problems.
A simpler methodology is to use a smartphone. Recordings are made of the noise source and at site boundaries between the source and complainant or inside the complainant’s garden or inside the property with photos.
The information is then sent to INVC via secure e-mail. They carry out analyses of the recordings and the persons responsible given the data and advised of what remedial steps should be taken. - on occasions being told to stop operating or served with an abatement notice which, if appealed can be defended in court using INVC evidence.
Invariably complaints are resolved much quicker and the person with the noise source feels they have been helped to resolve the problem rather than being the subject of enforcement action. Currently, none of the cases using the smartphone with INVC analysis has caused problems since, fingers crossed!!!"
West Group installed a new HVAC system with 5 condenser units that caused noise complaints despite the headline noise data suggesting there should not be a problem. They employed a noise consultant to devise a solution that was immediately implemented. Unfortunately, the silencers and noise barrier shown here were totally ineffective as the consultants had failed to diagnose that the complaints were caused by a low-frequency hum and not by the overall dB(A). The barrier also compromised the condenser performance. As a result of this (all too common) incompetence, the Local Authority had to issue an abatement notice.
The company immediately stopped using the units but could not get a guarantee that the additional noise control measures suggested by the supplier would solve the problem. The EHO recommended that they contact INVC for alternative options.
We diagnosed the cause of the complaints as a classic HVAC condenser low-frequency hum at the 53Hz – 57Hz blade pass frequency of the fans by analysing smartphone video clips and the audio recordings provided by the EHO. The solution was to design aerodynamic modifications that not only completely eliminated the problem tones, but also improved the system efficiency, lifting the abatement notice.
"Following receipt of the post-modification smartphone analysis and discussions with the EHO, it was agreed that we could start to use the air conditioning plant. It has been running for two weeks now and we haven’t heard from either the council or the residents and the one resident who was spokesperson for the road said she can’t hear anything anymore - so the design of the attenuation has worked and the problem has been resolved.
I want to take the opportunity to thank you for your help and support to allow us to get this ongoing issue resolved. It has been a long, painful and costly journey that could all have been avoided if only we had known to get an accurate opinion from the INVC in the first place..." Bekki Jordan, Facilities manager.
There are many more examples of both the outsourcing of noise complaint cause identification and optimum solution evaluation complete with information about the techniques that we use in our technical resources, for example:-
We provide varying degrees of technical support to environmental noise regulators and consultants across the globe as some of our unique technology defines current best practice. Consequently, we are retained by public bodies and by industry to provide definitive evaluations on what constitutes Best Practicable Means (BPM) or Best Available Technology (BAT). We also run much-acclaimed noise training workshops to transfer some of the time and resource-saving skills in-house.