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Spain not big on sound insulation or home insurance

Two new studies reveal that sound insulation and home insurance are areas where Spain could do a lot better.

Photo credit: CJS*64 via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Photo credit: CJS*64 via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

More than 80% of Spanish homes do not have adequate sound insulation, according to Danosa, a company that peddles sustainable building solutions.

This despite that fact that, since 2009, building regulations require that all new homes are built to European standards of sound insulation, though it is also true that very few new homes have been started in Spain since those regulations came into force.

Before 2009, builders were under no legal obligation to install any sound insulation, which might explain why so many people complain about noise in Spain.

According to the World Health Organisation, the recommended background noise level for good health is 55 decibels during the day, and 45 at night, whilst Spaniards put up with levels of 65 or more, making it one of the noisiest developed countries on earth, second only to Japan.


Home owners in Spain aren’t big on insurance either, according to a new report by Direct Line Insurance (Línea Directa), who estimate that around 8.4 million homes in Spain have no home insurance, whilst another 10 million homeowners with insurance have no idea how much they are insured for. Of those who do have a home insurance policy, 3 million of them have no idea who they are insured with.

Of those with insurance, the average policy covers damage of €107,000, on an average real valuation of €142,000. Extremadura (49%), Madrid (44%) and Andalusia (40%) are the regions with the highest incidence of home insurance claims.

SPI Member Comments

7 thoughts on “Spain not big on sound insulation or home insurance

  • Besides scant regard for passage of sound levels in Spanish buildings – there is an aversion to thermal insulation and heat barriers, to say nothing of the absence of DPM & DPC in buildings. Spain is light years away from many other members of the EU in terms of sustainable construction and have yet to embrace the first principles of Modern Methods of Construction. Considering the Eurocodes took over 40 years to agree at an astronomical cost, Spain has yet to show any compliance and this reflects in the poor standard of construction. Until Spain accepts that “King Concrete” is a product that has no place in the modern world and that they could produce quality homes to a very high standard, quickly and far more economically that at present, there will be no change. Could it be that architects fees would fall dramatically and with off-site manufacture, all documentation including structural calculations are issued at a nominal cost – thereby slashing the fees demanded by engineers………. or am I being a little cynical?

    • Yes you are being a little cynical and forgetting one very important point. Spain is a very earthquake prone area and also has one of the highest uses of apartments of three stories or more. It would be almost impossible to achieve the strict requirements of the codes for more than two stories without the concrete frame and foundations. Individual villa properties up to two stories could be package solutions on a well designed slab foundation and this is occurring but customer demand does not seem to encourage this!

  • I am an architect and bought two newish properties in Costa Brava over the last 3 years. An architect should save you money in the long term, because as Chris says, the quality of construction here is well below the rest of northern Europe. A technical architect – as they are know in Spain, as opposed to the design architect, should more than save you their fees in return for properly built and supervised construction using their knowledge base of trusted contractors.

    Sound insulation is a problem in many countries, but in Spain the worst culprit is damp because walls are rarely insulated properly and water infiltration due to poor DPM and DPC’s which are often installed but invariably left to be damaged by other trades and ultimately become ineffective. These problems are not easily solved but can be if you persevere.

    So – do use an architect for any extensions or building, they are worth their fees and will save you money in the end. If you are purchasing do get full surveys done even if the house is recently built – especially if it was built in the boom years. Do get the seller to provide decinal insurance on a substantial property purchase – a ten year warranty against structural defects with optional extension to cover water penetration. If they can’t get decinal insurance there is probably a good reason why. Alternatively you could hold a sum for a period of 12 months to cover any hidden defects that you may not be aware of when buying your ‘dream’ home.

    Sound insulation may be the least of your worries!

  • Bernard Hornung says:

    The possible use of precision made components manufactured off site and subsequently assembled on site would be perfectly possible in Spain. Moreover many off site methods of producing buildings are earthquake resistant as well as not requiring a frame. Lightweight systems would have the added advantage of causing less collateral damage should they collapse.

  • Malcolm Berry says:

    Where I live in N. America, manufactured homes, entirely built offsite and then trucked into place have been around for decades. Many hotels are now a series of ‘shipping container’ sized modules that are entirely built and furnished and then stacked one on top of the other and bolted together on site. No doubt very cost effective, but also extremely bland characterless structures. There are many chemicals used in todays furnishings, fire retardants for one that are harmful when inhailed constantly. When visiting Spain we stay in older buildings and live with the odd draft – it is part of the charm of the country.

    • Bernard Hornung says:

      There has to be a balance as to how much is achieved offsite and how much is completed onsite. To manufacture the components which go towards completing the shell and core of a building offsite and then to assemble a weatherproof envelope onsite is a better method than the volumetric solutions you appear to refer to in North America.

      Such an approach permits buildings to be individual in character and to maintain the local vernacular.

      A fabric first approach and an understanding of materials and how they behave is fundamental to avoid leeching.

      Staying in an old drafty building may indeed be a charming experience, however the burden of owning and managing one is perhaps not so. Also it is environmentally irresponsible to develop buildings which then require a disproportionate amount of energy to deliver thermal comfort.

  • When I remodeled my place, more than once I had to insist upon the installation of sound and weather insulation. It became clear that the architect and workers didn’t have much experience with insulation.

    And speaking of sound, does anyone have any advice about this? We live in Barcelona. There is a restaurant in the 6-floor building next door that recently upgraded their exhaust fan. Our unit is the 9th floor penthouse, and the exhaust fan chimney from that restaurant is affixed to the side of our building and rises about 2 meters above our roof. The fan is very loud, sometimes hitting 72 decibels and can run from noon until 1am. The sound from this impacts our use of our terrace and sometimes prevents us from opening windows. It’s shocking that the fan from a restaurant 9 floors below could be so loud.

    As the noise seems come from the air being forced out of the top of the chimney, I believe that if they changed the top to modern standards, the noise would stop, but I am reluctant to suggest a solution because I’m not an expert.

    This exhaust fan has also created a nuisance in the building where it resides and people there are complaining. Several months ago the community president of the building next door, our building president, the administrator both buildings and the restaurant owner met on my terrace to witness the problem. All agreed that it was a problem, and we jointly sent a burofax to the restaurant and they have still done nothing.

    We called the guardia urbana but they said that they don’t handle complaints such as this. Should our next step be a lawyer or engaging some department in city hall or something else?

    I was thinking of paying someone from an restaurant exhaust fan company to come to our terrace and tell us what it would take to solve the problem, but I don’t know if this is a good idea and where to find such a company.

    Any advice for us?

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