Love Thy Neighbour

Posted by Michael Medal /

Noise and vibration monitoring can help minimize disruption and protect your construction project from complaints and delays

Picture this: Activity has just started at your construction project and the noise and vibration are already troubling the neighbours. There are still months to go before completion and the complaints are coming in fast and furious.

Sound familiar? It is never the way to start a construction project, yet many contractors find themselves facing this situation. In fact, it’s more than just being a nuisance to your neighbours. Some construction companies have found themselves fighting lawsuits launched by homeowners claiming the vibration damaged their property. If you think the neighbours are mad now, wait until they think you have wrecked their home.

To avoid this scenario, here are three things to consider before you ever break ground:

1) Identify potential risks of vibration and ways to mitigate it

Every city varies but in the City of Toronto, before securing a building permit, the bylaw requires you to complete a vibration control form, which depending on the construction activities required for your project may require you to have a vibration zone of influence (ZOI) study done by a professional engineer.

A ZOI study estimates the potential vibration levels of the equipment and sets limits for the neighbouring buildings like homes or heritage structures. The results will determine how far away the construction activities need to be from the neighbouring buildings to mitigate the risk of any possible damage from vibration. The further your site is from the neighbours, the less risk of vibration issues. Just keep in mind that depending on the sensitivity of the structure, such as a residential home, 10-30 metres away might not be enough. You might need to be located further away. Hence, why in dense urban environments it makes sense to review the potential impact to neighboring properties or structures.

2) Consider monitoring solutions for the vibration zone of influence

In Toronto, if the ZOI study finds your site is located too close to other buildings, you will be required to adopt noise and vibration monitoring solutions. In other jurisdictions, it might not be required but the vibration engineer might recommend you consider monitoring solutions. This is a way to mitigate risk should the neighbours have any concerns or even launch a lawsuit.

At Aercoustics, we developed our own proprietary monitoring system called Cronus, which we have used for noise and vibration monitoring of wind turbines, rail transit systems, and construction projects. It is a fully remote noise and vibration monitoring solution. For construction monitoring, monitors are typically mounted on a foundation structural element out of the way of the construction team and provides continuous live monitoring from its web-based dashboard. If vibration exceeds recommended levels, the monitor will immediately send a notification to our team and we then assess if it is a legitimate vibration concern that requires construction to stop.

3) Communication is key when it comes to construction noise and vibration

If your noise and vibration study or monitoring shows that you are operating well below the levels that could cause damage, be open about it with the neighbours. It is also important to acknowledge that there is a difference between vibration levels that may cause structural damage versus annoyance. The limits are generally intended to prevent structural damage. Ensure you communicate with all potential stakeholders before the trucks roll in. Discuss the anticipated vibration levels to help neighbours prepare and ensure they’re not surprised. If they don’t feel their concerns are being heard and considered, be prepared for resistance and complaints. Be open about which noise and vibration levels are a concern and what your noise or vibration levels actually are so they have a better perspective and understanding of the project.

Better to be safe than sorry

If you foresee a lot of complaints in the neighbourhood and have already faced opposition from the neighbours during the permit process, you might want to consider a monitoring system regardless of what the zone of influence study finds. A strong monitoring program should be considered as a transparent way to protect everyone!

Michael Medal


Mike’s work takes him underground in subway tunnels to stakeholder meetings for some of the largest transit infrastructure projects in Canada. Since joining Aercoustics in 2009, Mike has seen it all.

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