ASTM floor noise standard raises another wood structure red flag

The new ASTM E3207-21 standard will provide users with formal ratings for tenant or occupant footstep noise—one of multi-level wood buildings’ most pervasive nuisances.

A new standard from ASTM International Committee E33 on Building and Environmental Acoustics establishes an evaluation metric for low-frequency impact noise, especially the thudding from footfalls typical in multi-level buildings constructed of materials other than cast-in-place or precast concrete.

“When inside a wood-frame or other lightweight building, one can hear heavy footsteps from other occupants, which is usually described as thudding,” says Samantha Rawlings, associate principal at Santa Monica, Calif.-based acoustical consultant Veneklasen Associates and technical contact for the new ASTM E3207-21, Standard Classification for Determination of Low-Frequency Impact Noise Ratings. “Using this standard opens a door of design capability that has not existed in more than 60 years of evaluating impact noise from footfalls in buildings.”

E3207 can be used in conjunction with data gleaned from ASTM E3222-20a, Standard Classification for Determination of High-Frequency Impact Sound Ratings. The classifications will assist stakeholders throughout a project’s value chain, from developers, engineers, architects and contractors to laboratories, regulatory bodies and sustainable rating system entities. The World Health Organization identifies excessive noise within residential housing as having negative effects. E3207 promotes public health by providing additional tools for building designers to create quiet living that will benefit communities worldwide.


The Surety & Fidelity Association of America (SFAA) commends a Supreme Court of the State of Washington decision to reverse a lower court ruling in Lake Hills Investments vs. Rushforth Construction Co. As SFAA argued, the court found the contractor should not be responsible for damage caused by the defective design provided by the owner, even where the contractor was responsible for certain defective work. In addition, the contractor is not completely barred from asserting this defense if the defects were caused by a combination of deficient performance by the contractor and deficient design, and proportional liability should be determined.

Joined by the National Electrical Contractors Association Puget Sound Chapter, Mechanical Contractors Association of Western Washington and SMACNA-Western Washington, SFAA issued an Amici Curiae in support of Petitioner AP Rushforth Construction Co., Inc. d/b/a AP Rushforth, and Adolfson & Peterson, Inc.’s (collectively “AP”) Petition for Discretionary Review. In the brief they argued the Court should grant the Petition because the decision by the lower court is contrary to precedent of limiting a contractor’s liability when the owner’s defective plans and specifications caused the defective work, and upsets settled expectations of allocation of risk and liability between contractors, owners and architects on construction projects. Allocation of risk and the principle of limiting the contractor’s liability for defective work based on defective plans and specifications is long settled doctrine in Washington State and throughout the country—reflecting the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in U.S. vs. Spearin more than 100 years ago, SFAA officials note.

“We were able to work with our construction industry partners in support of their efforts demonstrating to the courts why it was appropriate to leave this well-established allocation of risk unchanged,” says SFAA Vice President, Policy and General Counsel Julie Alleyne. “The court’s decision is a commonsense solution. Each party is responsible for its own mistakes.”

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