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Rob Brown

Bulimba Barracks buyers should be restricted from making noise complaints, Brisbane Airport says

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Assessment of aircraft noise impacts to sensitive development proximate airports is complex, particularly where there are no definitive tests to demonstrate that noise impacts will result in an acceptable planning outcome. In these instances, assessment should consider the National Airports Safeguarding Framework (NASF), Guideline A: Managing Aircraft Noise and Australian Standard AS2021 Acoustics – Aircraft Noise Intrusion – Building Siting and Construction.

Rob Brown of Octave Acoustics recently provided expert evidence to a similar case (engaged by the Developer). The subject site was determined to be conditionally acceptable for noise sensitive development. His key recommendations were that:

  1. Noise sensitive buildings be designed and constructed to control aircraft noise intrusion in accordance with the methodology set out in AS2021.
  2. That prospective owners of dwellings on the subject site be formally notified of the presence of aircraft noise in the area.

These recommendations impose an objective minimum standard for building construction to control aircraft noise whilst also giving purchasers pause to consider the local noise environment (a common oversight, particularly with respect to off the plan purchases). Anecdotal evidence suggests that land owners are much less inclined to complain where they have had an opportunity to consider potential noise as part of their due diligence.

The Tribunal accepted this approach and concluded that the proximity of the Subject Land to the runway would not result in a land use conflict that would give reason to refuse the application.

From the ABC 18/1/2022:

Bulimba Barracks buyers should be restricted from making noise complaints, Brisbane Airport says

Brisbane Airport Corporation is urging Brisbane City Council to restrict future home buyers at the master-planned 855-home Bulimba Barracks site from making aircraft noise complaints. It warns the entire site falls under the airport’s flight paths and will endure 60-70 decibel noise daily.

The airport corporation also wants the council to seek independent acoustic assessments from Bulimba Barracks developers Shayher Group, who purchased the $63 million, 20-hectare site from the Department of Defence in 2020.

Last year Shayher Group lodged a request for variation to the master-plan that governs the site, including changes to road layouts and building heights, and adding rooftop gardens to planned homes.

Residents in Bulimba and neighbouring suburbs have made hundreds of noise complaints since Brisbane Airport opened its second parallel runway in 2020, prompting federal MP-led community forums and independent assessments.

In its submission on Shayher Group’s application, Brisbane Airport said it had “significant concerns” as a third of the site falls into the airport’s Australian Noise Exposure Forecast contours, meaning homes should only be built under certain conditions.

A Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) spokesperson said it was concerned that “inappropriate development” around the airport could “result in unnecessary negative impacts on community amenity and constraints on airport operations”.

“Noise modelling for Brisbane Airport indicates the whole Bulimba Barracks site falls within the 60 decibel (dB) noise contour, meaning most aircraft that overfly the area will generate noise above 60dB, and in some parts of the site, aircraft noise will be above 70dB,” the spokesperson said.

There is no regulated maximum noise level for planes flying over suburbs, the Airservices Australia website says, however a plane flying overheard at 70 decibels would interrupt a conversation inside the home.

The BAC spokesperson said effective land use planning had ensured “sensitive developments” were not allowed too close to the airport, allowing it to continue operating without a curfew.

“BAC considers it imperative that future owners are made aware of current and future aircraft operations at Brisbane Airport, and the implications of these operations,” the spokesperson said.

“BAC is seeking that Brisbane City Council considers the registration of a covenant on any new title within the development that protects the future operations of the airport from noise complaints in relation to this specific site.”

Brisbane City Council city planning committee chair Adam Allan said the application remains under assessment.

“Council’s independent planning officers are considering aircraft noise as part of their assessment and further acoustic assessment will be required” Cr Allan said.

“It is not possible to restrict future noise complaints.”

Federal Griffith MP Terri Butler said she, state MP for Bulimba Di Farmer and local Labor councillor Kara Cook had “fought hard” to have the barracks site master-planned “to prevent unchecked, inappropriate development”.

“It is now up to the Schrinner Brisbane City Council administration to uphold that masterplan. I look forward to seeing its outcome,” Ms Butler said.

Greens candidate for Griffith Max Chandler-Mather said residents wanted a curfew to be imposed on the airport.

Shayher Group was contacted for comment.


Updating floor coverings in your apartment? How to avoid conflict with your neighbours and strata committee

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Apartment owners and strata committees considering laying down hard flooring have been advised to ignore National Construction Code (formerly BCA) standards and instead look to AAAC ratings.

A recent Flat Chat column in the Australia Financial Review and on the Flat Chat website told readers that “hard floors come with a raft of potential points of conflict between you, your neighbours and your strata committee.”

“If you remove the most effective form of sound insulation – good carpet on top of quality underlay – and replace it with something that’s certain to be less effective, you are entering a world of potential acoustic strife,” author Jimmy Thomson told his readers.

“This is exacerbated by the cheap flooring alternatives on the market and the advice you get from some salespeople which can range from wilfully irresponsible to well-intentioned ignorance.”

He added that if apartment floors have been built to minimum NCC standards and owners install cheap flooring with negligible underlay, they are likely to get complaints that could end up in a state tribunal with neighbours and strata committees seeking orders compelling the owners to rip up the floor or re-install carpet.

“Unfortunately, many strata committees go by the NCC standards for permitted noise transfer which are 62dB of impact noise and 50dB of airborne noise,” writes Thomson.

“These levels are woefully inadequate for the way we live now and barely meet the very lowest standards calculated by the Association of Australasian Acoustical Consultants (AAAC).”

“A smart owners corporation will use those AAAC standards as the basis for a flooring by-law to avoid any arguments.”

You can download the AAAC’s guide for acoustic ratings in apartments and townhouses at 

And you can read the article “Flawed thinking in Hard Flooring” in full on that link.

Jimmy Thomson edits the Flat Chat website and hosts the Flat Chat Wrap podcast.

Residents of New York’s tallest tower seek $171m in damages

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Even from a distance, the outcomes described in this article present several valuable learnings and reminders. We should not shy away from innovation in building design as innovation can lead to new opportunities and exciting outcomes. When pushing the limits of building design, it is important that the project team collectively acknowledge that they are ‘doing something new’. This acknowledgement can then serve as a starting point for assessment and thereafter, management of the risks associated with innovation.

The owners’ association at New York’s supertall tower 432 Park Avenue, one of the most expensive addresses in the world, is suing the developers for $US125 million ($171 million) in damages, citing multiple floods, faulty elevators, “intolerable” noise caused by building sway, and an electrical explosion in June – the second in three years – that knocked out power to residents.

The nearly 430-metre-high tower, designed by the firm of star architect Rafael Viñoly, first came under scrutiny in February, when The New York Times revealed many of the claims made in the new suit.

“This case presents one of the worst examples of sponsor malfeasance in the development of a luxury condominium in the history of New York City,” said the complaint filed with the New York Supreme Court on Thursday (Friday AEST), referring to the developers CIM Group and Macklowe Properties.

The damages include the estimated cost to repair some 1500 construction and design defects in common elements of the building that were identified by an engineering firm hired by the owners’ association. It does not include potential punitive damages, or separate lawsuits that individual residents might file.

The damages could rise, said Jonathan Adelsberg, a partner at Herrick Feinstein, which is representing the association, which residents took over from the developers in 2020.

“It’s almost like peeling an onion,” he said, referring to defects that may yet be uncovered. “This is a work in progress in ascertaining what’s wrong.”

A spokesman for the developers said that “each and every commitment and term contained in the 432 Park Offering Plan and Declaration has been honoured”, adding that some of the remaining “maintenance and close-out items” had been obstructed by the owners’ association.

Built in 2015 with a projected sellout value of $US3.1 billion, the pencil-like tower marked a pinnacle in luxury apartment development in the city – much of it geared toward part-time residents and investors who hid their identities behind shell companies.

Buyers have included Saudi retail magnate Fawaz Alhokair, who bought an $US88 million apartment on the 96th floor; a member of the Beckmann family that owns the Jose Cuervo Tequila brand; and the one-time pairing of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, who bought a 4000-square-foot (371-square-metre) apartment for $US15.3 million in 2018, and sold it about a year later.

“Far from the ultra-luxury spaces that they were promised, however, Unit Owners were sold a building plagued by breakdowns and failures that have endangered and inconvenienced residents,” the complaint said.

The complaint cited defects in a number of interrelated systems in the building, many of which present “life safety” issues.

Residents have been trapped “on several occasions” for hours in stalled elevators, at least in part because of the building sway that occurs in towers of such immense height, the suit said.

There have been a number of floods and leaks, both on high floors and in the sub-basement, which the board attributes to poor plumbing installation. Some 35 units and common areas were damaged by water, causing millions of dollars in damages, and one flood disabled two residential elevators for weeks.

Noise complaints related to the quality of construction were frequent. The suit claims that even Richard Ressler, a founder of CIM Group and a unit owner, once said the sound and vibration issues were “intolerable”, and made it difficult to sleep during inclement weather. Another resident said the garbage chute “sounds like a bomb” when garbage is tossed.

Resident complaints at 432 Park, once the tallest residential building in the world, and a symbol of the luxury condo boom of the last decade, are revealing strife inside one of the city’s most secretive and exclusive towers.

The suit said the decision to go public was a result of the developers’ inadequate “Band-Aid approach” to resolving many of the issues. While attempting to patch a leak on a sub-level of the building in June, a contractor mistakenly drilled into electrical wiring, causing an explosion “which threw the contractor backwards, several feet through the air”, knocked out the power for some residents, and shut down the air-conditioning system. The repairs cost more than $US1.5 million.

The 125-unit building is nearly sold out, but since reports of defects at the building emerged in February, resales have been slow, according to Donna Olshan, president of Olshan Realty.

There are 11 units listed for sale, she said, ranging from about $US7 million for a low-floor two-bedroom to $US169 million for the penthouse. Since January, only one sale has closed.

The New York Times

Noisy Brisbane KittyCat ferries retrofitted after noise complaints

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Another example of the diversity of work that we acoustic engineers get involved with:

NSW Draft Construction Noise Guideline available for public consultation until Friday 30 April 2021

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Following a review of the Interim Construction Noise Guideline (2009), the EPA has prepared a Draft Construction Noise Guideline to modernise and improve the guidelines.

The draft guideline holds people who manage construction projects to account for their environmental performance, by ensuring that construction noise is assessed, planned and managed in a risk-based manner within a framework to drive construction practices that minimise noise impacts on the community. This includes credible community engagement and transparent justification of proposed impact mitigation measures. For further information see:

Mine noise to affect Bee Colonies in central-west NSW?

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This is an example of a question that we are increasingly asked to answer, ‘will there be material noise impacts to non-human populations adjacent the project site/corridor?’

City of Port Phillip seeks middle ground in St Kilda live music venues’ battle with residents

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As we emerge from Covid-19 so to does the ongoing debate on appropriate solutions to the inherent conflicts between city vibrance and city living. An interesting article from the ABC

Octave Acoustics is Hiring in Sydney and Melbourne

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Octave Acoustics is looking for enthusiastic people to join our teams in Sydney and Melbourne.

In just two years we have established a core of premium clients and undertaken a diverse range of project work, including multiple hotel, office and apartment tower developments, road infrastructure, shopping centres, comprehensive vibration assessments, schools and universities, licensed premises, planning assessments and CLT and LVL buildings.

Our offering focuses on collaboration to deliver ‘best for project outcomes’. We are driven to deliver services of the highest quality. This direction, coupled with our distinctive growth strategy, presents significant opportunity for career advancement and fulfilment.

We encourage you to apply if you have either direct or indirect industry experience or are a recent graduate of engineering or physics. This role is open to any level of experience or seniority (with commensurate remuneration), more important to us is your outlook, vision and enthusiasm.

Our goal is to maximise opportunities as defined and tailored by you, thereby driving your success, that of your colleagues and of Octave Acoustics.

Applications should be sent to

We look forward to hearing from you.

Grants for Live Music Venues (Applications Close 25 October 2017)

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Creative Victoria is supporting live music in Victoria by offering grants to Live Music venues under The Good Music Neighbours – Acoustic Assessment Grants scheme. The Good Music Neighbours – Acoustic Assessment Grants is a one-off program that will help live music venue owners be proactive about sound management.  It offers up to $7,500 per venue in funding to obtain an Acoustic Assessment Report for the venue.  There is no onus on the venue owner to match or contribute funding.  The grant can cover the entire cost of a project, up to $7,500. Applications close at 5pm on the 25th of October 2017.

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