An alleged homicide recently happened in Kaohsiung, apparently over a noise dispute. While it is common that neighbors see each other in court over noise complaints, it is shocking that such a dispute led to a fatal stabbing.
Noises not only irritate people, but also disrupt the harmonious relationship between neighbors. Whether a neighbor behaves properly is an ethical issue, and it is only by chance that one might have an ethical neighbor living upstairs or next door. To prevent an unfortunate homicide from happening again, a fundamental solution should be sought at technical and legal levels.
There are two kinds of noise. One is transmitted by sound waves and the other through vibrations. The former is easier to deal with. The noise levels of external sounds can be reduced by using acoustic panels: To prevent the sounds inside the house from influencing others, people can use acoustic absorbers.
Noise transmitted through vibrations is more difficult to deal with. People have to rely on buffers for noise control. When building an apartment, if those buffers are not installed for individual walls and floor slabs, it takes more effort to control noise afterward.
Moreover, the installation of buffers involves upstairs and downstairs neighbors, and certainly not everyone would be happy with the construction.
After the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency revised the Building Technical Regulations (建築技術規則), Article 46-6 specifies that soundproofing materials should be installed for each individual wall and floor slab. The regulations defining what kind of materials should be used, how thick the acoustic panels should be and the noise level index are already in place.
However, even after years of going back and forth, no one can agree on how the rules should be enforced. Some corporations were against the changes, as they did not want their costs to increase, nor did they want the space of each floor to be reduced.
As a result, it was not until January 2021 that the amended regulations came into force. If the regulations could have been implemented sooner, thousands of new buildings would have been designed better in terms of noise control. Noise disputes involving neighbors would have been avoided as well.
Even so, construction companies nowadays might not follow the regulations, and the acoustic panels and soundproofing buffers they use might not abide by the law.
There is no investigative mechanism to check all the buildings, and when people want to buy a house, they tend to look at its appearance and interior layout. Most people do not know much about noise control. More often than not, people only find out about the noise levels after they have moved in, and even if they want to install more noise-control buffers, it is too late.
Officials and agencies must carry out professional, strict inspections before a construction project is under way. The interests of consumers should be safeguarded, to prevent another homicide.
Besides, if construction companies used more green materials for noise control, consumers would definitely favor their buildings.
Chen Wen-ching works in environmental services.
Translated by Emma Liu
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