Picture by: Remote Lands

Containing Noise from Pubs & Nightclubs

I’ve heard it said that Vancouver is a no fun city. As a relatively new immigrant from London UK, who is used to pubs closing around 11pm, I find this attitude a little hard to understand. However, one thing I have noticed since working here in the field of acoustic consultancy is how noise regulation in this city is less onerous than it is in London. Vancouver appears to be a city with lower levels of noise regulation.

In London, much the same as in the Lower Mainland, pubs and clubs are controlled by liquor licensing laws enforced by local government.

In London, much the same as in the Lower Mainland, pubs and clubs are controlled by liquor licensing laws enforced by local government. If a licensed premises features amplified music, such as that played by dee-jays, or resulting from live music, then the local authority (municipality) will typically have in place a noise control policy for entertainment venue development. Typically, a noise control policy, such as the Supplementary Planning Document adopted with the Local Development Framework for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, will prevent any increase in the night-time level of background noise measured in any third octave frequency band measured at a dwelling. This condition applies to situations not only where the licensed premises does not share the same building as the noise sensitive location, but also where there is a structural connection between the two. In the latter case, the aforementioned noise policy also applies during the day-time.

The current trend in pubs and clubs is for dance music with a very high level of bass. The type of clause referred to above aims at ensuring that the low frequency music components associated with heavy bass are 10dB below the background noise level, and are therefore for all intents and purposes inaudible. This is an extremely difficult condition to meet. In practice, where residential dwellings are located either above or adjacent to premises featuring loud music, it would mean that the entertainment venue would need to be built as a box-in-box construction, such as that typically seen in broadcast or recording studios.

There are also clauses within Canadian Municipal Bylaws, such as in the Ottawa Noise Bylaw, that seek to preserve the peace and comfort of any person in a residence or place of business as a consequence of any person operating sound reproduction or amplification devices.

In Vancouver, the City Noise Control Bylaw 6555 contains a number of clauses that apply to pubs and clubs.

In Vancouver, the City Noise Control Bylaw 6555 contains a number of clauses that apply to pubs and clubs. The most onerous of these is that the level of noise originating from the entertainment venue received in a bedroom or living room of a dwelling sharing a common partition with the commercial premises is no higher than 55 dBC. This level of noise is broadly similar to the level of traffic noise audible in a downtown dwelling close to a relatively busy street. This condition provides some protection to the occupants of residential suite, but does not result in inaudibility, or anything close. The bass beat will still be clearly audible.  However, as it stands the venue is obliged to do no more than to comply with the 55 dBC noise limit.

Over the past five years or so, the City Licensing Department has required an acoustic assessment for the operation of extended hour’s liquor establishments, new premises and pubs re-focussing as music venues. This assessment must address the relevant clauses of the noise bylaw, and to qualify for the extended hours license, it has to demonstrate that noise transmission from the premises to an adjacent dwelling does not exceed 55 dBC. For most of the venues applying for this extension in hours, meeting 55 dBC requires the installation of an heavy dropped ceiling in the venue to help control noise transmission to suites above. It may also require that the maximum output of the sound system is limited by using a form of noise limiter – either an electronic or software based compression system.

In Vancouver, a significant proportion of licensed establishments are housed in buildings which were originally cheap hotels with boarding rooms above. The pubs now invariably play music at levels of between 105 and 110 dBC. What were boarding rooms now tend to be SRO’s (Single Room Occupancies) or low-cost hotel rooms inhabited by people with little disposable income. If no extended hours application is made, then it is not incumbent on the licensed premises to demonstrate that it is compliant with the Noise Control Bylaw. As a consequence, many of the SRO’s or hotel rooms are subject to high noise levels until 1am or 2am. Nevertheless, if complaints are received in relation to noise emissions from a pub or club, the City will require the premises to seek advice from an acoustic consultant for the purpose of complying with the bylaw.

So, Vancouver is a city where there is only partial noise protection for residents who share a building with a licensed premises as only those with extended hours need demonstrate compliance. The quantitative bylaw limit is in effect less restrictive than qualitative clauses contained within noise bylaws in other Canadian municipalities and the quantitative noise criteria contained in planning legislation in the UK.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on google
Share on pinterest

Recent Post

Starfish Communications

Welcome home, Farbod!

In which we introduce our newest team member, Farbod Ghanouni…

A graduate of both Lakewood University (BE, Mechanical Engineering) andBritish Columbia Institute of Technology (Mechanical Systems Diploma, Mechanical Engineering), Acoustic Engineer Farbod Ghanouni joined the BAP Acoustics Port Moody team in late August.
“I’d been working in the field for a while when I heard great things about BAP Acoustics,” Farbod says. “I also saw firsthand the quality of their work, so I started to think about the possibility of joining the company.”

Read More »
Starfish Communications

WELL done acoustics with a side of Green

The fact that I’m wearing noise-cancelling headphones as I write strikes me as both ironic and illustrative of how much and how insidiously noise can affect us at work, rest, or play. With all the construction underway in my neighbourhood, I’m relieved to discover that the sounds of recorded waterfalls, surf, rain—or even Drum & Bass—are far more conducive to cognitive focus than, say, the dulcet tones of jackhammers or chainsaws. Though currently home-based, I have worked in conventional office environments, researching and writing amidst colleagues engaged in activities and conversations sometimes no less, um…dulcet, and I suspect wearing headphones to tune them out would probably have been construed as rude.

Read More »
BAP Admin

A growing team in a thriving city

When we need to hire the very best, it’s worth the effort to seek out those candidates. BAP Acoustics recruited Principal Consultant Andrew Williamson early this spring for our Victoria office. A 2003 University of Victoria grad with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, Andrew “quickly fell in love with acoustical engineering” right out of the gate as the new hire at a small acoustics firm.
“I really enjoyed the dynamic variety of the work and its considerable overlap with architecture,” says Andrew, who in 2009 received his Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) designation from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of British Columbia (APEGBC).
A confident speaker, he has on numerous occasions communicated technical information to the public, municipal councils, government members, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As well as having attended public meetings, open houses, and government-sponsored working groups, Andrew has acted as an expert witness in British Columbia’s Supreme Court and participated in a joint review panel environmental assessment hearing for a major infrastructure project.

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Mailing List

We would like to share our stories and news with you