BY DOUGLAS GLENN CLARK
Living at the epicenter of downtown San Francisco’s bustling Financial District can be invigorating for professional people that like to mix business with pleasure. Popular restaurants, retails shops and cafes co-exist with corporate high-rises to make every need accessible.
But for neighborhood condo owners that are ready to sell or lease their homes, all the commotion may suddenly take its toll – on the bottom line.
A second, inner soundproof window is added to buffer each existing window and control temperature as well as noise.
Jeff Abadie, president of his homeowner’s association board , has a new appreciation for real estate valuations after correcting his own noise problem.
The Abadies live in a four-story former warehouse that has been divided into 53 residential units. Their building is surrounded by busy streets and commercial properties. Roaring delivery trucks and other maintenance vehicles, such as waste removal, are the norm. And living on the second floor that overlooks a loud pedestrian walkway with eateries and coffee hangouts has forced them to wear earplugs when trying to sleep.
“It’s a fun place to live, but not at 2 a.m. with all the noise,” he says.
Abadie doubted that soundproofing options were available for the original 10-x-14-foot windows in his 100-year-old historic building. Then another homeowner in the building invited Abadie and his wife to experience the sound of silence. They were stunned. Although Soundproof Windows Inc. often visits new sites and installs test windows to measure before-and-after decibel levels, no studies were needed to convince them to make a change.
Large office, apartment and condo buildings need not replace every window to fix noise and insulation problems. A second, inner soundproof window can be added to buffer each existing window and control temperature as well as noise. The unique panels look just like the windows already on the building – adjustable or permanently closed – and they can be selectively installed in the most disquieting areas, near busy streets, highways and railroad crossings.
The wish to renovate historic properties is often thwarted by restrictions that preserve exterior design elements. But that was no problem for the Abadies because their three new windows were installed within their condo. By mimicking the style of the existing windows in color and material, the new product is all but invisible to the human eye.
“They do custom work, so at first glance, you can’t tell there is a difference,” he says, referring to the visual impact. But the aural change was seismic. “It was the first time we heard our refrigerator hum. We never knew we had noise in our place, that’s how noisy it was outside.”
While dual-pane windows may deter heat and cold, a very different kind of acoustic engineering is needed to block nasty exterior disruptions.
The original windows were also drafty, which caused the building’s heating system to work overtime. Although each unit is not billed separately for utilities, Abadie says his new windows have tamed wild temperature fluctuations typical of the bay area.
“For the first time we have insulation – from the weather and real estate values. From a cost standpoint, we realized that if we were landlords we could now get premium rent because we took away the biggest problem of living downtown – noise. And should we ever decide to sell, from a value standpoint, the windows are a no-brainer investment,” he says.
When Abadie ordered his windows about a year ago, only a handful of the community members had Soundproof Windows products installed. But residents that have visited his home are now poised to make the change, particularly since learning that two new construction sites will soon add more racket to the neighborhood soundscape. By the end of 2016, he guesses most of the units will have upgraded their windows.
“With two new buildings going up, a mix of commercial and residential, the 24-hour garbage pickup and action is only going to get worse,” he says.
Douglas Glenn Clark is a content creator based in Los Angeles, Calif. Soundproof Windows Inc. is based in Reno, Nevada.