West Burn Lane St Andrews - Residential Acoustics Case Study, CSPA

West Burn Lane residential development in St Andrews

Test Risk Management of the sound insulation performance of the project during Design and Construction assisted with the technical realisation of this "high end" contemporary development in St Andrews - which scooped the RIBA Award for Scotland and the RIAS Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award in 2015


This high-end project, designed by Sutherland Hussey Harris architects, inserted 14 units into a conservation area in the historic centre of St Andrews, with the buildings designed within extremely tight height and depth constraints to conform with Local Authority planning requirements and to achieve a development density which exceeded the requirements of the challenging brief from the developer client, Eastacre Investments.

The elegant and uncompromisingly contemporary design required the thickness of all separating walls and floors in the development to be minimised and for novel constructions to be developed to control flanking and other weak links in the control of sound transfer between units in the project to enable success at pre-completion testing. Positive and fruitful Involvement with the project architects in a series of technically challenging iterative design processes, as well as careful inspections during construction, ensured that when tested the project passed with flying colours – achieving levels of sound insulation well in excess of the minimum requirements set out in the Scottish Building Standards whilst maintaining meticulous and elegant visual detail.

The principles of Test Risk Management – a process pioneered and promoted by CSP Acoustics over a number of years and encapsulated in a technical guidance Practice Note issued by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland – were applied to the West Burn Lane project. This  provided a ‘start-to-finish’ management tool to help minimise the risk of Sound Insulation Test failure at the ‘project critical’ pre-completion testing.

Essential elements of the Test Risk Management process include:
  • Team commitment to managing test risk throughout design and construction
  • Adoption and implementation of a project Test Risk Management strategy
  • Examination of designs at conceptual and detailed level to reduce sound insulation control problems
  • Revision of details to maximise performance and to minimise risks]
  • Consideration of what could go wrong during construction and adoption of tactics to minimise risks – including impacts of design/specification changes during construction
  • Examination of the whole project to identify flanking risks
  • Taking steps to avoid negative effects on sound insulation performance of some traditional workmanship practices and poor workmanship
  • Agreeing on-site checking procedures at an early stage
  • Arranging for tool-box talks before critical work commences and arranging critical stage inspections of separating walls, floors and adjacent constructions
  • Advising Contractors and Clients of testing requirements
  • Providing a check list of what has to have been completed so that testing can be carried out
  • Arranging tests well in advance – to ensure that availability and release programmes can be achieved

As can be seen from the images of the West Burn Lane project the floor-to-floor constructions at windows were a particular challenge – to avoid flanking transmissions.  The thinness of floors and their expression at cantilevers also demanded careful development of detailed designs.

Early stage meetings were essential

In the early design stages over-the-board meetings with the architects were essential for the successful development of many critical details and e-mail liaison was then used to refine and finalise these. Particular consideration had to be given to the control of vibration through steel structural elements – especially where room linings and structural steel were in very close proximity – and one-off designs developed to deal with these potential failure routes as well as where staircases passed over separate accommodation and where separating floors needed to accommodate steelwork. Assistance with development of detailed designs to reduce vibration transfer, flanking transmissions and weak links in constructions were also required especially to deal with the implications of the uninterrupted glazing systems to separate units; to deal with balconies and decks over separate apartments and to deal with cantilevered elements for which vertical control of sound had to be provided.

During construction a series of site visits were carried out to identify potential failures in construction and annotated photographs included in Site Visit Notes to show what had to be done and where

A technical success

These steps all helped to ensure that when tested there were no failures of separating floors or walls and that the test results met the minimum insulation required by the Scottish Building Standards.

There is little doubt that the foresight of the developers in adopting a holistic approach to Sound Insulation Test Risk Management using CSP Acoustics LLP was a significant contributor to the technical success of the project and aided the realisation of this award-winning project. The project provides an exemplar for others to emulate.


A simple guide to Test Risk Management – “Minimising the Risks of Sound Insulation Test Failure – Test Risk Management” can be downloaded from the CSP Acoustics LLP website – together with a simple checklist – Test Risk Management – Guidance for Contractors – covering all that has to be completed, or provided, before testing can take place.

Early Decisions Make a Difference

It is a fact that the impact of many acoustical issues can be reduced by making appropriate early stage design decisions – site layout, building planning, materials and structures choices can all affect the magnitude and therefore cost of dealing with noise, privacy and communication issues. To help designers become more aware of the impact of acoustics on design and development CSP Acoustics is happy to provide CPD Updates on Acoustics and Noise issues to design practices and client organisations. Lunchtime, or longer, CPD sessions can be arranged for delivery in-house to suit client and design organisations.

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