Addressing Noise Complaints in Apartments

By: Tai Jeong

Country Director, Canada Wood Korea

Recently, KBS and SBS, South Korea’s two top television networks aired features about finding fundamental solutions for unwanted inter-floor noise.

With more than 85% of residents in and around Seoul living in apartments, disputes among disgruntled neighbors over noise are rising sharply. According to the Korean Statistical Information Service 88% of dwellers claim to be living under stress due to inter-floor noise, a serious conflict issue in apartment complexes.

Statistical data of apartment types where noise is generated between floors.

The statistical difference between apartment (1) and multi-purpose apartment (2) is enormous: 80% vs 0.8%. The distinction relates to different structural configurations employed as multi-purpose apartments are built with columns & beams, but ordinary apartments are built with bearing wall construction.

Use of the column & beam structural system for apartment provides significant benefits, including:

> more options for changing interior spaces using non-load bearing partitions when the building is renovated;

> Reduced wall thickness maximizes usable living space;

> Reduced foundation load;

> Shortened on-site construction via pre-fabrication of non-load bearing infill walls;

> Better sound attenuating properties – sound waves generated in the upper floor are transmitted through the bearing wall columns & beams to dissipate inter-floor noise.

Apartments built with bearing wall construction were previously lauded as the most efficient housing option for the growing population, but have turned out to have serious drawbacks.

The average life of apartments in Korea is only 20 years versus 55 in the USA and 77 years in Great Britain.

To address both noise concerns and economically short operational lives, so-called “Rahmen” apartments using column & beam construction are expected to become more prevalent.   This is creating a growing opportunity for wood infill wall hybrid structures.

Check out the video clips: