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Tim Beresford. Located above a busy underground railway, the new East Buildings – Britomart complex in
Auckland, New Zealand, has an extraordinary noise-minimisation feature: full-building rubber
pads. TIM BERESFORD from Norman Disney & Young explains the acoustic merits of the

ue to the ever-increasing demand for premium one achieve this for a whole group of buildings, specifi-
office space, designers and engineers have cally a group of this size? Add in the fact that the buildings
progressively found themselves working on are located in a seismically active area, requiring them to be
developments where individual site locations present design seismically restrained, and you have a real design problem on
challenges that require ‘non-standard’ solutions. Such was your hands.
the case with the East Buildings, Britomart, Auckland, where
a group of three medium-rise buildings totalling 40,000 ASSESS THE PROBLEM
square metres GFA (gross floor area) of A-grade office space is The fi rst stage in the design process was to assess the extent of
nearing completion above Auckland’s underground Britomart the vibro-acoustic problem. A detailed ‘vibration map’ of the
train station and tunnel. site was created to identify any hot spots. Holes were exca-
The key challenge with this site was to address vibra- vated through the carpark asphalt topping, which was located
tion from rail movements in the tunnel below, which had the above the rail tunnel, to expose the tunnel ‘lid’ onto which
potential to produce unacceptably high noise levels, if left the East Buildings’ foundations would sit. Accelerometers
untreated, for occupants within the building. were attached and rail movements in and out of the tunnel
As the lead acoustic consultant for this project, Norman were tracked. Analysis and predictions of the vibration spread
Disney & Young (NDY) was required to fi nd a solution throughout the proposed building indicated a widespread
that would reduce such vibration on a large scale – across all problem of audible low-frequency noise when particular rail
floors of all three of the East Buildings. Several options were movements occurred.
considered, but ultimately it was decided the best solution The design of the isolation bearings or ‘pads’ required
was to vibro-acoustically isolate the buildings. The concept careful consideration. It was important to ensure loading of
behind this solution is simple: isolate the building with rubber the pads was not too great and that bulk shear strain within
pads, as is done for many vibration problems. But how does the pad was kept within acceptable limits. This was vital to

right: Sophisticated
engineering solutions
have been designed to
minimise underground
railway noise and
provide an amenable
interior environment for
office staff. Drawing
courtesy Johnson Pilton


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ensure the life of the pad matched or exceeded the life of
Building-wide rubber pads at the new East
the building. As one can imagine, it would be no trivial task Buildings – Britomart complex in Auckland,
replacing a failed pad on an already completed building. New Zealand, will help reduce noise from an
underground railway.
Photo courtesy Stephen Perry.
Development of the pad was a complex procedure involving a
collaborative effort between NDY and the bearing manufac-
turer, combining knowledge, experience and a good deal of
trial and error. NDY worked closely with Trelleborg, trialling
different combinations of rubber compounds and metal shims
to make up the fi nal design. Trelleborg had test facilities that
allowed the pads to be tested under simulated loads of up to
150 percent of the predicted working load.
The testing of the pads was considered an essential part of
the process; however, it also presented its own limitations –
the test rig could not test individual pads that would be large
enough to safely support the weight of the building at each
of its foundation points. So NDY worked with the structural
engineer to develop a distributed bearing pattern for each
foundation so the load could be distributed among up to four
smaller pads. This meant each individual pad could be tested,
and it was known that the group of pads could collectively bear
the weight of these buildings’ foundations.
Another consideration was the need to seismically restrain
the entire building due to its location in the seismically active
Auckland region. During the developed design stage, different
restraint options were investigated, including high-tech shock
absorbers manufactured in the US. With the high price tag

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Prediction without
Vibro-acoustic Isolation
80 Measurement with
Sound Pressure Level (dB re 20 Micropascals)

Vibro-acoustic Isolation


PNC 60

PNC 50

PNC 40

PNC 30

PNC 20

Total dB(A) 31.5 63 125 250 500 1k 2k 4k 8k

Frequency (Hz)

The concept behind this solution is simple: TARGETS MET

isolate the building with rubber pads, as The developer, Cooper and Company, was delighted with the
outcome of the vibro-acoustic isolation. On-floor noise levels
is done for many vibration problems. But due to rail movements are well below the project threshold
how does one achieve this for a whole throughout the East Buildings, fulfi lling the requirement for
group of buildings, specifically a group of the design and delivery of an A-grade office environment on
this size? this challenging site. FM

Tim Beresford is an acoustic engineer who has worked with Norman

associated with these and many of the other available options, Disney & Young for the past five years, following his graduation from the
it was decided that bespoke snubbers would be designed and University of Auckland as a mechanical engineer. During this time he
incorporated into the structural steelwork at the foundations. has been involved in a wide range of significant acoustic and vibration
designs throughout New Zealand, including work in the fields of build-
MEASURING VIBRATION ing services for commercial and residential applications, aircraft noise
The East Buildings are very near to completion at the time of modelling and spatial acoustic design. He enjoys music, playing piano
writing. In August, 2009, NDY completed vibration measure- and electric guitar, and has been actively involved in several bands. He
ments in the worst-case locations of the partially completed sees music as the link between his recreation and profession and for this
buildings to determine the effectiveness of the isolation pads. reason has a keen interest in good acoustics for performance spaces.
The resulting graph (see above) indicates the sound levels Recently he accepted the opportunity to relocate to Australia to manage
present within office areas of the building with and without the acoustic section at NDY Melbourne.
vibro-acoustic isolation, based on predictions from our initial
site survey (no isolation) and from measurements within More information
the partially completed building (with isolation). The noise Cooper and Company
criterion for this office space is for sound pressure levels to be
less than or equal to the PNC 40 curve. As can be seen noise Norman Disney & Young
levels without isolation would have been in excess of PNC 55.
With vibro-acoustic isolation, internal noise levels have been Trelleborg Group
decreased to below PNC 25.


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