How Far Away Does an Apartment Need to Be from Noise Sources?

Hi all.

Just another Sydneysider bemoaning the current state of affairs with Sydney property right now. To try and widen the property search without increasing budget, I've been trying to find info about minimum distances from the apartment to various noise sources before you can hear it and couldn't find much except one source saying to live a minimum of 50-70m from a train line.

Does anyone have thoughts on the minimum distance an apartment has to be to mitigate -

  • Highway noise?
  • Train line vibration and noise?
  • Rapidly collecting dust on the balcony?

And also how much being on a higher floor would help?



  • +10

    It varies so widely depending on the building acoustic attenuation, lay of the land etc.
    Modern buildings can be built right on train lines if they build sound attenuating building fabric to a high enough rating, double glazed windows, and air-conditioning with fresh air introduction (so you don't have to open the windows to that side), etc.
    It also depends on latent background noise. If you are in a quieter area in a building without sound attenuation (no traffic noise, industrial fan noises etc) then a train line will disturb you from far further away when an infrequent train does go past - potentially hundreds of meters. Whereas if the continuous background noise is higher you may not notice it with a closed window.

    In Queensland, the development codes have a "Noise Transport Corridor" map with different ranges based on how close you are. They use it to trigger noise assessments for new development to have to put in attenuation measures. These are normally done by assessing background noise for a number of days with a device left on site to record dB, frequencies of higher noises etc, and acoustic engineers design treatments to suit. However this is all only done in recent history, not so much 90s and back. Also, the noise can increase over time.

    I briefly (e.g. 3 months) stayed in a building on a busy main road (commute route) amongst heavy start/stop traffic, only on about level 4, with a rail line across the street probably about 70m away for both electric and diesel trains, and on a bus route - I got used to it fairly quick and it stopped disturbing me with windows closed but a more modern building… occassionally some [email protected] with a super loud motor bike or modified car exhaust would wake me up early revving it / hooning past on the road just down below because it was so much louder than background - makes me wish they cracked down on exhaust mods and noise levels more to make it more controllable for the urban environment. I couldn't get over the high level of thick black toxic dust though - it coated my balcony / outdoor table with a couple of days, if you walked barefoot onto the balcony your feet would be covered, some got inside - I presume from exhaust - not healthy. Happy to get out of there.

    • What he said… I only add that your mind gets use to background noise pretty quickly. We live on a mainroad (not Parramatta Road level but still busy) and installed a cheap form of double glazing (google Magnetite Windows) to block out road noise. It works well but still have noise to the rear. Dust and vibration (we have an old federation house and some bricks in window arches were working loose from vibratoin) are a bigger issue that I cannot address.

    • I agree modern buildings may be able to be built closer - but in my two experiences living in a brand new apartment (built 2018 with double glazing) on a large 3 lane highway (olympic drive) and an early 2000s apartment about 10m back from another semi large highway (anzac parade), both the amount of thick black dust and the noise was pretty tough to combat. So not feeling very confident in new buildings…

  • +1

    as in, leaving that hellhole sydney would help a lot

    • +14

      I was interested to see where 100,000km would get OP if he tried. Unfortunately given that the circumference of the earth from Sydney's latitude is 33,309 KM, If OP did go 100,000 KM around the earth he would only be 70~ km away from his original starting point which would still be in the greater Sydney area. Maybe he could try a rocket as there is no sound supposedly in the vacuum of space.

      • It is also a quarter of the way to the moon

      • +2

        He doesnt have to travel in a straight line. He could travel in a spiral fashion and end up in Darwin - depending on the angle of his spiral

        • -1

          Very true, but lets be honest… he'd be better off a quarter way to the moon than Darwin.

      • They did the Maths.

    • +1

      Yeah it's a shame…So many links to sydney cbd (work friends and family) that make another capital city/regional place a very last resort.

  • Depends on your council.

  • Can you find out the Sound Transmission Class (STC) of new apartments?

    • I've not found real estate agents to be very forthcoming about this kind of information when buying - have you had any luck?

      • most real estate agents wouldn't have a clue about the technical details of this kind of thing

  • in NSW there is a something called SEP65 which are a set of laws and design guide lines for apartments.

    this is the design guide. you may find what you need here

  • +3

    i have lived in 2 apartments that were near train lines. The current one is on 1st floor and looks over train line, so maybe 50m away. I don't notice a thing. I'm probably used to it by now, but also the trains don't run v frequently at night anyway. I seriously don't think it is as big of a deal as people think

    The bigger deal is that the cars driving on the road between apartment and train line are noisy. F**king hoons and goddamn motorcycles are the worst

    • A friend lived on a 1st floor next to a train line.
      whoooaboy it was noisy when they had trackworks, also had to close balcony door when trains went past - or pause any movie you were watching until the train had gone.

      • We don't have the same friend by any chance? also had a friend who lived next to a train line on first floor (15m away) and that has made me swear off living immediately next to a train line, but I'm wondering if moving say two blocks back might be enough to not hear it at all..

  • +1

    Does anyone have thoughts on the minimum distance an apartment has to be to mitigate -
    Highway noise?
    Train line vibration and noise?
    Rapidly collecting dust on the balcony?

    All apartments are build around high density zones, quiet areas are not zoned to build apartments.

    A solution, don't get an apartment go to a more remote / rural area.

    • Somewhat true I agree - but I was looking at places such as Wollstonecraft, there are a ton of apartments there that are about 500m from the station or any kind of main road, but of course the ones that are both walkable to the station and quiet have a premium

  • I live really close to -33.89789555262167, 151.18618399982233. It's the confluence of 2 major train lines (10 tracks), 2 stabling yards and a maintenance depot.

    I'm 30 metres from the tracks but there is a tall concrete wall between us. The trains aren't loud because I'm on a straight section. 50 metres towards Erko station it's really noisy on the curve.

    The maintenance depot can get really noisy at night with heavy vehicle movements, ballast being dropped from height, beepers, etc, especially on the weekends.

    I've lived under flight paths and about 200m from a highway and this is the most bearable. I wouldn't leave here because of noise.

    • Not sure how you do it! I've ruled out almost all of the inner west because of flight paths and traffic. I'm a shift worker as well so need a place that is quiet at all times of day ideally.

      • It's 9.26am at the tail end of peak hour. My back door is open and the loudest thing i can hear is my dishwasher. wait, a small plane just droned past.

        My adult kids stay here every friday when the maintenance usually starts and their room is on the railway side. They sleep through it without issue.

        I was in Zetland for a while and the people from the local dealership doing hot laps in Ferraris and Maseratis on Sunday morning were a lot louder.

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