Considering the impact of wastewater in building acoustic performance

As the world continues to get noisier, building designers, specifiers and contractors have an increased responsibility to consider acoustics in their projects. However, current standards offer vague recommendations and little guidance for designers, which can lead to missed opportunities.

Acoustics white paper

Drawing on a new Geberit white paper, Sophie Weston, Channel Marketing Manager for Specification and Developer at Geberit, explores the importance of taking a whole-building approach to acoustic performance including drainage – and why the specification chain must take responsibility for product choice across all building services.

More machines, more people, more technology and increased travel is all contributing to unprecedented global noise pollution and it is impacting our collective health. The World Health Organisation, which has been tracking noise levels for over a decade, describes noise pollution as an “underestimated threat” that contributes to everything from stress to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, and of course, hearing loss.

Of course, we can’t always escape unwanted noise completely. Think the hum of the refrigerator or the din of a nearby building site. Particularly when you consider that the impact of noise is not always directly related to volume or pitch – many of us will recognise the emotions that can be stirred by a continuously dripping tap or a leaking overflow pipe. However, that does not mean we can’t mitigate the impact of noise inside properties. A YouGov poll commissioned by Geberit shows more than half (52%) of homeowners say that unwanted noise in their home have a negative impact on their wellbeing. We know that prolonged exposure to noise can create negative feelings such as irritation and dissatisfaction. In fact, noisy work and home settings have been linked to evidence of depression and anxiety resulting from noise annoyance. The onus is on the specification and installation chain to make better-informed decisions and help mitigate the impact of noise on wellbeing, particularly in multi-occupancy residential properties.

Acoustic tool

A whole-building approach

One of the biggest challenges until now has been that internal acoustics in building design is mainly concerned with heating, ventilation and air conditioning, with little or no consideration given to drainage.

Those familiar with the relevant standards on building noise will note that they mainly centre on mechanical noise from HVAC equipment. BSI’s British Standard 8233:2014 Guidance for Sound Insulation and Noise Reduction in Buildings simply states that water systems including hot and cold water services and waste pipes “are not to cause disturbance in normal use.” Our white paper explores the regulations and standards in more detail.

Selnova Comfort

This poses when a challenge, particularly when research shows that building occupiers and users are affected by bathroom noise too. The recent YouGov poll commissioned by Geberit shows that more than a quarter (26%) of homeowners say they are regularly affected by bathroom sounds including the toilet flushing, drainage and pipes.

Yet there is still very limited information or guidance in UK regulations on the impact of noise from public health services such as wastewater. The onus, therefore, is on the industry to take the lead. This means taking a whole-building approach - to extend the scope of noise simply beyond HVAC and consider the choices required to deliver a full system approach to reducing building noise.


There is no doubt that in the absence of specific guidance or strict regulatory requirements, meeting the acoustic requirements of end users can be a challenge. However, this should not be used as an excuse for poor acoustic performance, an issue that we have already identified as having a major impact on peoples’ lives. Instead, building designers, specifiers and M&E contractors should be breaking the silo approach and asking the right questions over product specification to provide better outcomes for clients, developers and end-users. When considered alongside effective building insulation, low-noise mechanical climate systems and other acoustic performance measures, it provides a whole-building solution which addresses the needs of occupiers and adds value for developers. Precisely the holistic approach needed to achieve objectives in spite of vague regulations.