Queen’s Prize Recognises Pioneering Noise Research

25 November, 2009

Huge drop in complaints demonstrates success of Robust Details scheme

Please find a press release from the Home Builders Federation and Robust Details Ltd following the award last week of the Queens Anniversary prize to Edinburgh Napier University for its pioneering research in to noise insulation.

Edinburgh Napier University has received royal recognition for its collaborative research in to noise insulation involving the house building industry. The research has helped revolutionise new-home building practices and standards and led to the establishment of the Robust Details scheme, benefiting hundreds of thousands of new homes owners and the house building industry alike.

The research was initially instigated following suggestions made to Government that all new build homes should be subject to mandatory sound testing. It established how best to deal with sound transmission problems between buildings and ultimately allowed the development of a registration scheme and sound insulation ‘pattern book’ that developers could use to meet the standards set out in building regulations. Upon completion of the research project, the scheme has been run by Robust Details Limited (RDL), and means builders registering their homes with RDL are not subject to on-site pre-completion sound testing.

The RDL scheme clearly shows how an efficient and effective industry scheme can be developed, removing the need for Government to impose prescriptive regulation. Ultimately, its success has been demonstrated by a huge drop in customer complaints about noise in new homes.

The Robust Details project was one of the largest and most intensive research projects ever undertaken between a university and the house building industry. It was funded by the Home Builders’ Federation and many of the country’s biggest house builders,

The Queens Anniversary Prize for 2009 is the highest accolade that can be conferred on a higher or further education institution in the UK and will be officially awarded at Buckingham Palace next February.

Mike Freshney, Chairman of Robust Details Limited and a member of the original project steering group, recognises Edinburgh Napier’s role. “Thanks to this research, we were able to gain Government approval for what has proven to be a major success in effective industry self regulation without any cost to the taxpayer.

“Noise complaints in new homes, which had risen by 140% between 2001 and 2004, are now at their lowest level in eight years. Five years on from the original project conclusion, the Robust Details approach continues to deliver benefits, both to the industry and, most importantly, to the occupiers of new homes built under the scheme. The Robust Details scheme shows that the industry can find its own solutions, set its own targets and then go on to better them. I firmly believe that the approach should be replicated in other areas - for example, in providing a clear and certain route for house builders to meet and exceed new energy efficiency targets.”

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation agrees, “The success of this industry-funded scheme, and the benefits it has bought to hundreds of thousands of new home owners, as well as house builders, powerfully demonstrates the innovatory advantages of the industry working together to develop its own solutions rather than having regulation imposed. This experience has given us a template for the future in terms of developing and mainstreaming means of providing good quality homes in the most efficient way, so delivering an improved product for our customers as affordably as possible.”

Dave Baker, Chief Executive of Robust Details also extols the benefits of the innovations made possible by Edinburgh Napier’s research

“Adopting this approach allows architects, builders and developers to avoid the need for pre-completion sound testing. This eliminates the risk and uncertainty of remedial action being required on completed floor or wall constructions and avoids the associated potential delays and costs in completing the property. Constructing using these guidelines adds real, long-term value to the structure and fabric of the building.”

- Ends –

For media enquiries contact Steve Turner on 07919 307 760 


Note to Editors

1. The Home Builders Federation (HBF) is the principal representative body for private sector home builders and voice of the home building industry in England and Wales. The HBF’s 300 member firms account for some 80% of all new homes built in England and Wales in any one year, and include companies of all sizes, ranging from multi-national, household names through regionally based businesses to small local companies: www.hbf.co.uk

2. RDL is a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee. The business was formed in May 2004, in response to the house-building industry's need for an alternative to pre-completion sound testing to satisfy Part E of the Building Regulations (England and Wales). RDL funds the Part E Robust Details scheme primarily from plot registration fees. Other sources of income include income from Handbook sales, Handbook subscriptions and type approval fees.

 RDL’s Role

Approve new Robust Details as a method of satisfying Building Regulations

Manage the use of Robust Details in the house-building industry by enabling builders or their representatives to use them in new, attached homes

Monitor the performance of Robust Details and withdraw any that consistently fail to meet the required standards

Promote the use of Robust Details and publish information to help the industry improve the sound insulation performance of separating walls and floors in new homes

RDL is the only body to undertake this role, under the authority of Statutory Instruments 2004 1465 & 146

 3. The Queen's Anniversary Prize is the most distinguished award that can be made to a UK institution for higher or further education. They celebrate world class achievement and excellence and are part of the national honours system. The awards are designed to recognise the outstanding contribution that universities and colleges in the United Kingdom make to the intellectual, economic, cultural and social life of the nation. They are awarded every two years. Each institution is permitted only one entry to the competition. The 2009 prizes will be presented by Her Majesty The Queen on 19th February 2010. www.royalanniversarytrust.org.uk

4.The project led by Edinburgh Napier’s acoustic research specialists started in 2002 and was completed nine months later with results submitted to the house building industry and Government. It involved 60 house builders and 175 test sites. The University assessed the potential performance outcomes then instructed each site for the new innovative designs and co-ordinated the amendments to the build process.

Over 1300 houses and apartments were built incorporating the innovative research and development designs. Site testing was carried out from Cornwall to Aberdeen. The research project team also managed 15 subcontracted acoustic test companies. In addition, they administered five working committees representing hundreds of UK companies. Constructions covered all sectors of the industry including timber, masonry, concrete and steel. During the project substantial knowledge transfer took place between industry sectors led by the University. The project included all construction product sectors, Local Authority Building Control, National House Building Council, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Association of Noise Consultants and the Building Research Establishment.

All 164 first edition technical details were drawn up by the University within four weeks. The project was completed on time and submitted to the Government. It then continued to support it through public consultation in 2003 and then to the official launch in 2004. It continues to work to develop more sustainable innovative solutions for the industry.