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SOUND

Sound is one of the Basic Works Requirements in the EU Construction Products Regulation (CPR),
Interpretative document: Protection against noise.
In most countries, there are regulations for the acoustical environment, which include consideration
of factors such as:

Noise transmitted from industrial buildings into the environment

Traffic noise entering into buildings

Noise levels inside workshops and buildings

Noise reduction between the rooms in a building

The need for good acoustic solutions in buildings is growing rapidly with the desire to plan and build
more dense areas with close connections to transport routes. The level of demand for high-class
building in terms of sound insulation and room acoustics is also growing in many markets. In some
cases, building regulations have already been revised, requiring better sound insulation and also room
acoustics.

It is important not to confuse the terms sound insulation and sound absorption. Sound absorbing
materials, such as stone wool, will not provide much sound insulation, because it they have low mass
and are permeable to air. They can help to reduce the sound level in a noisy room or increase the
sound insulation in a building structure.
A special acoustic design is needed to create the suitable spaces for planned functions. There are
basically two sound-related factors to be considered when designing a building:

Choose quiet equipment (e.g. elevators, pumps, heating and ventilation equipment, etc.).

Handle the sound in building by means of room acoustics and sound insulation.

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Porous PAROC stone wool is excellent sound absorbing material


A material's sound absorbing properties are expressed by the sound absorption coefficient, , (alpha),
as a function of the frequency. Alpha () ranges from 0 to 1.00 (from total reflection to total
absorption).
PAROC stone wool is porous. It consists of coherent material and cavities. The ability to absorb sound
increases with the frequency and is also strongly connected to thickness; especially when the
absorbent is placed firmly against a wall or other hard surface.
For low frequency sound, an air gap between the absorber and the reflective surface or wall will
increase the sound absorption.

Picture: Sound absorption curves for PAROC stone wool at thicknesses of 30 mm (Green), 50 mm
(Red) and 100 mm (blue).
PAROC stone wool is excellent material for use in sound insulation constructions

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To prevent sound travelling, you have to disrupt the sound waves by:

Filling cavities in walls so that they do not contribute to resonance

Laying a floating floor to reduce floor impact sound

Insulating vibrating machinery so that the vibrations are reduced

Due to the unique properties of stone wool, it is widely used in all of these applications. For example,
in partitions, porous and air permeable mineral wool is the most cost-efficient sound insulation
material. For the double leaf partition, it gives a 510 dB improvement compared to an empty wall
construction.

The figure below shows the sound reduction for a double leaf wall structure with and without stone
wool in the cavity.

General information about sound

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Sound as wave motion


An airborne sound can be seen as an air pressure variation in the air. It has a wavelength, frequency
and intensity. Sound travels from the source to the point of reception in a media. When energy
strikes the molecules of the media, it causes the molecules to vibrate back and forth, producing a
wave that transmits sound energy. The speed of sound depends on the medium the waves pass
through, and is a fundamental property of the material. A solid is an excellent transmitter of sound,
liquids do not transmit sound very well and gases are the poorest transmitters of sound. For example,
sound travels in air at nearly 340 metres per second, but it can travel through steel at about 5,200
metres per second.
Since a sound wave consists of a repeating pattern of high pressure and low pressure regions moving
through a medium, it is sometimes referred to as a pressure wave. Sound waves are often depicted in
graphs like those below, where the x-axis is time and the y-axis is pressure or the density of the
medium through which the sound is travelling.

physical value
frequency
wavelenght
time perioid or cycle duration
wave speed

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symbol unit
f=1/T Hz=1/s

T=1/f
c

formula
f=c/

=c/f

T=/c

m/s

c=xf

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The human ear is extremely sensitive and only low power intensities are needed for hearing. The
human hearing range is in the area between 0 dB (hearing threshold) and 120 dB (pain threshold) in
frequencies between 20 20000 Hz. Frequencies which fall below the hearing area are known as
infrasound and frequencies above 20000 Hz are called ultrasound.
The most important frequency range from the speech distinctness point of view is 300 3000 Hz.
Noises are not usually pure tones, but include a range of sound energy spread over a wide band of
frequencies. The centre frequencies are internationally standardised and the table below shows some
of the standard frequency bands.

The human ear responds to sound pressure, which is measured in units of Pa (N/m 2). The lowest
sound pressure that an average ear can detect is about 0.00002 Pa, and the limit for pain is about
200 Pa. Because of this extensive range in pressure, it is impractical to use a linear scale, so sound
pressure levels are generally expressed using a logarithmic scale (denoted as dB). The terms dB and
bel (=10 dB) are actually pure mathematical terms and are not dedicated especially to acoustics.
Bel is the logarithm for the relationship between two quantities.
The experience of a sound varies from person to person. A sound hardly recognised by one person
can be very irritating to someone else. Individuals can also react differently to the same sound
depending on the mood. Generally an increase of 10 dB is perceived as a doubling of the sound level
and 12 dB is the smallest change that the ear can imagine.

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The experience of sound depends on

The sound level

The frequency

The type of sound, if it is constant or intermittent

If it is noise or nice music

Decibel arithmetic

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As stated previously, the decibel is a logarithmic value that cannot be added or subtracted in the
same way as linear values. It is therefore necessary to return to linear units, Pa, in order to perform
the arithmetic and then to go back to logarithmic values.
As an example, add the two sound level values:

Lp1= 40 dB and Lp2=45 dB


First, change the units to bels by dividing by 10 and then return to linear values in order to perform
the addition:
104.0 + 104.5 =10 000 + 31 622 = 41 622
Then returning to logarithmic values gives: log (41 622) = 4.62 bel

So that:
Lp.tot = 46.2 dB
Alternatively, the figure on the right side may be used to obtain the same result.

Mathematically, the addition of two identical sources will increase the level by 3 dB and 10 identical
sources by 10 dB. This can also been shown by the following figure.

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When the sound level is measured the sensitiveness of the ear is considered by using different filters.
These filters are marked as dB(A), dB(B) and dB(C). The most often used filter is the A-weighted
filter, which imitates the way an ear filters sound. See the figure below (the attenuation curve for the
A-filter).

Picture: the attenuation curve for the A-filter

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Reflection, sound absorption and sound insulation


Sound may be absorbed, transmitted or reflected. When a room boundary, such as a roof, floor or a
wall, is hit by a sound wave, some of the sound energy will be reflected, some is absorbed within the
material and some is transmitted through it, as illustrated by the figure.

The proportion which is reflected, absorbed or transmitted depends on the shape of the material or
the construction hit by the sound wave, and the frequency of the sound. Based on this, three
acoustical parameters can be defined.
Absorption coefficient, = (absorbed sound + transmitted sound)/(incident sound)
Reflection coefficient, = (reflected sound)/(incident sound)
Transmission coefficient, = (transmitted sound)/(incident sound)
Sound absorption
Room acoustics describes how sound behaves in a space. That means the listener and the sound
source are in the same room. If the room has nearly no sound absorbing surfaces (wall, roof and
floor), the sound will bounce between the surfaces and it takes a long time before the sound dies out.
The listener in this kind of room will then have a problem registering the speaker because he hears
both the direct sound and repeated reflected sound waves.
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If the surfaces instead are covered with sound absorbing material, the reflected sound will decrease
much quicker and the listener will only hear the direct sound. Also, the general sound level in the
room will decrease.

A material's sound absorbing properties are expressed by the sound absorption coefficient, , (alpha),
as a function of the frequency. Alpha () ranges from 0 to 1.00 (from total reflection to total
absorption).
The sound absorbers can be divided into three main categories

Porous absorbents

Resonance absorbents

Single absorbers

Porous absorbers
A good example of a porous sound absorbent is stone wool. When the sound wave penetrates the
mineral wool, the sound energy through friction is changed into heat.

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The material thickness has a great impact on the material's sound absorbing qualities. High
frequencies (above 500 Hz) are easier to handle with 3050 mm stone wool thicknesses. More
challenging are the sounds in frequencies below 500 Hz. Here we need thicker stone wool slabs to
create better sound absorption. Material thickness can also be compensated for with air space behind
an acoustic ceiling or wall panel to improve low frequency performance.
For these sound absorbents, it is very important not to put an airtight layer on the surface, such as a
vapour barrier or paint as this will reduce the sound absorbing properties significantly. You can see
the effect of the airtight layer in the picture below (the dotted line):

Here you can find some practical absorption coefficients for certain materials:
Octave band (Hz)

125 250 500 1000 2000 4000

Concrete

0.02 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.03 0.04

Gypsum board on stud

0.2 0.15 0.1

Windows

0.35 0.25 0.18 0.12 0.07 0.04

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0.08 0.05 0.05

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Octave band (Hz)


50-mm mineral wool slab*

125 250 500 1000 2000 4000


0.2 0.65 1.0

100-mm mineral wool slab* 0.45 0.9

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

* with solid backing


Resonance absorbers
Resonant absorbers consist of a mechanical or acoustical oscillation system. One case of this is
membrane absorbers for example, a solid plate with a tight air space behind. The absorption
reaches its maximum at the resonance frequency. If the cavity is filled with a pours material such as
stone wool, the sound absorption over the frequency range is broadened.
Single absorbers
In this category, you will find objects such as tables, chairs, people, etc. The absorption for these is
normally given as m2 in Sabines formula per object.
The reverberation time of a room characterises how long acoustic energy remains in it. It is usually
defined as the time for the acoustic intensity to decrease by a factor of one million (60 dB).
Since a reasonably loud clap is about 100 dB (SPL) and a whisper is about 40 dB, you can easily
estimate the reverberation time for a room by clapping and listening to how long you can still hear
some remaining sound from the clap. This assumes that the room is not particularly unusual in its
dimensions and that it is reasonably quiet.

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In a small room or hall (volume <1000 m 3) where the sound field is diffused and the average
absorption is less than 0.3, an empirical formula called the Sabine formula can be used to calculate
the reverberation time:
RT = 0.16 x V / A
T = reverberation time, s
V = volume of the room, m3
A = ( surface area (S) x ) = absorption area of the room, m2
Absorption area of the room A is the sum of each surface area S multiplied by its absorption
coefficient .
For example, if the desired reverberation time in a classroom is 0.8 seconds and the dimensions of
the classroom are 6 x 10 x 3 m and the intension is to use 45 m 2 of absorbing ceiling material, what
then is the required absorption coefficient for the product?
Answer: A = 0.16 x V/T = 0.16 x 180/0.8 = 36 m 2 x = 36/45 = 0.8
The optimum reverberation time for a space depends on the size, materials and type of room. Every
object placed within the enclosure can also affect this reverberation time, including people and their
belongings.
Rooms for speech require a shorter reverberation time than for music. A longer reverberation time
can make it difficult to understand speech. If, on the other hand, the reverberation time is too short,
tonal balance and loudness may suffer.
Noise reduction in large industrial premises
In industrial halls with a volume exceeding approximately 1000 m 3, the height is normally much less
than both the length and the width of the hall. In this case, the height and the furnishing density
have a considerable influence on the sound field. In such a hall, the sound field is generally not
diffuse and it is therefore not useful to calculate the reverberation time by using the Sabine formula.
Sound insulation
Sound is transmitted through most walls and floors by setting the entire structure into vibration. This
vibration generates new sound waves of reduced intensity on the other side. The passage of sound
into one room of a building from a source located in another room or outside the building is termed
''sound transmission".
Transmission loss or Sound Reduction Index, R dB, is a measure of the effectiveness of a wall, floor,
door or other barrier in restricting the passage of sound. The transmission loss varies with frequency
and the loss is usually greater at higher frequencies. The unit of measure of sound transmission loss
is the decibel (dB). The higher the transmission loss of a wall, the better it functions as a barrier to
the passage of unwanted noise.
There are two types of sound insulation in buildings: airborne and impact. Airborne sound insulation
is used when sound produced directly into the air is insulated and it is determined by using the sound
reduction index. Impact sound insulation is used for floating floors and it is determined by the sound
pressure level in the adjacent room below.

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1. Direct sound transmission


2. Flanking transmission
3. Overhearing
4. Leakage
a) Airborne sound insulation
When a sound wave is incidental upon a partition between two spaces, part of it is reflected and part
of it is transmitted through the partition.
R = 10log10 W1/W2

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R (dB) W1/W2
0

10

10

20

100

30

1 000

40

10 000

50

100 000

60

1 000 000

For single leaf structures, such as a homogenous concrete wall, the transmission follows the mass
law, that is, the more massive the structure, the smaller the quantity of transmitted sound.
In case of lightweight structures consisting of multiple layers, such as a gypsum wall, the spring-mass
law is applicable. If highly absorbent material such as stone wool is used as the spring in a double
leaf wall, the sound insulation improves. The wider the cavity, the greater the benefit from stone
wool will be. Typically, a 5 10 dB increase in R can be achieved with a filled cavity compared to an
empty one. The figure below shows a single leaf structure and a double leaf structure with the same
total weight.

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Calculation of the sound reduction index R is based on test results obtained at different frequencies.
The results are plotted against the reference curve between 100 Hz and 3150 Hz at 1/3-octave
intervals. If the measurements are performed in situ (in a real building) the values are denoted R.
The standard test procedure is defined in EN ISO 140, where standard methods are given for both
laboratory and field measurements.
The difference between laboratory and field values can be a significant number of dB depending on
the const ruction details and workmanship.
If a partition consists of different kinds of elements for example, a wall with windows and doors
which have different sound transmission characteristics the overall sound reduction index must be
calculated.
The sound reduction index for holes and slits is nearly equal to 0 dB. The influence of holes and slits
may therefore be important, for instance, at the connections between walls, at doors and windows
without sealing strips, and at any necessary openings in partitions. If there is an acoustically
absorbing material in the slits, it will give a higher sound reduction index for the slits.
Weighted Sound Reduction Index Rw
When specifying the acoustic performance of a partition in a more general manner, it can be useful to
describe the sound insulation by a single number. The weighted sound reduction index, R w , is a
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rating method given in EN ISO 717-1. This standard fits a standard reference curve to the measured
sound reduction index curve
In EN ISO 717-1, a rating method is also given where the Rw value is completed by two C-terms
which are applied to two models of the noise spectra for various types of noise. These two terms, R w
+ C and Rw + Ctr, also include the frequency range 100 3150 Hz but can be extended to 50 5000
Hz. As industrial and traffic noise often have high sound levels which are also below 100 Hz, it is
recommended that the extended frequency area is used.
The summary value, Rw + C, gives the reduction value in dBA for a spectrum with a level which is
equally high in all third-octave bands. This can be used for:

Living activities (talking, music, radio, TV)

Railway traffic at medium and high speed

Highway road traffic travelling at speeds in excess of 80 km/h

Jet aircraft at a short distance

Factories emitting mainly medium and high frequency noise

The summary value Rw + Ctr also gives the reduction value in dBA, spectrum with low-frequency
dominance such as:

Urban road traffic

Railway traffic at low speeds

Disco music

Factories emitting mainly low and medium frequency noise

b) Impact sound insulation


An airborne source sets up vibrations in the surrounding air which spread out and, in turn, set up
vibrations in the enclosing walls and floors. An impact source sets up vibrations directly in the
element it strikes. These vibrations spread out over the whole area of the element and into elements
connected to it, such as internal walls, the inner leaves of external walls and floors. The vibrations in
the elements force the air beside them to vibrate and it is these new airborne vibrations that are
heard.
Floors should reduce airborne sound and also, if they are above a dwelling, impact sound. A heavy
solid floor depends on its mass to reduce airborne sound and on the soft covering to reduce impact
sound at source.
A floating floor contains a layer of highly resilient material which largely isolates the walking surface
from the base and this isolation contributes to both airborne and impact insulation.

It is important to choose a suitable material and to make sure that is not bypassed with rigid
bridges such as fixings and pipes.

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Air paths, including those due to shrinkage, must be avoided; porous materials and gaps at
joints in the structure must be sealed.

Resonances must also be avoided; these may occur if some part of the structure (such as dry
lining) vibrates strongly at a particular sound frequency (pitch) and transmits more energy at
this pitch.

Impact sound insulation is calculated from measurements of the sound pressure level produced by
the standardised hammer method. The results are presented as a curve between 50 5000 Hz.
When calculating a single-number quantity L

n,W

or Ln,W the levels for the 16 frequencies are

compared to the standard curve in a similar manner to the calculation of the sound reduction index.
The only difference is that the deviation between the measured curve and the standard curve is in
this case above the standard curve. Ln is measured in the lab whilst Ln is measured in the field. For
both Ln and Ln low numerical values mean good impact sound insulation.
Also for impact sound insulation, two spectrum adoption terms Ci,100-2500 and Ci,50-2500 are needed in
case of a floor with wooden beams. The difference between the results of laboratory and field
measurement is caused by the flanking phenomena in a building. In a real building, sound transfers
not only through a structure being designed for example, a floor but also via connecting
structures adjacent to the floor.
Dynamic stiffness
Dynamic stiffness is a very important property for porous materials, especially when the material is
mounted directly between two solid layers (sandwich-element, floating floor). For mineral wools, it is
presented per unit MN/m3 because mineral wool is usually continuous.
PAROC stone wool is composed of solid material and air. When it is used as a resilient layer, we have
to determine dynamic stiffness for both mineral fibres and air separately; so dynamic stiffness = s d +
sa (sd is the material stiffness and sa is the stiffness for enclosed air).
In accordance with testing standards, the dynamic stiffness of stone wool must be stated for a
loading of 200kg/m2 when it is used under a floating concrete floor. The lower the dynamic stiffness
values, the better the impact sound insulation.
The stone wool products used as step sound insulation are specially designed for floor application.
The fibre orientation is mainly horizontal compared to, for example, roof slabs or ground slabs. The
horizontal fibres block better the sound from passing through. The difference when used in a floor
may be 5 dB or even more. This means a one class difference.

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Mass-spring system
The main idea behind the floating floor is the mass-spring system. The softer the spring, the better
the vibration damping. The same goes with the mass the heavier the better. If the intermediate
floor is not heavy, the floating floor does not work because the mass-spring system changes. In
practice, an intermediate floor has to be five times heavier than a floating floor.
Impact noise insulation is measured using a standardised tapping machine. A good impact noise
insulation Ln,w requires:
Concrete with a floating floor:

Heavy intermediate floor

Soft elastic intermediate layer

Heavy floating floor

The ideal mass-spring system:

At the extremes of its displacement, the mass is at rest and has no kinetic energy. At the same time,
the spring is maximally compressed, and thus stores all the mechanical energy of the system as
potential energy. When the mass is in motion and reaches the equilibrium position of the spring, the
mechanical energy of the system has been completely converted into kinetic energy.
All vibrating systems consist of this interplay between an energy-storing component and an energycarrying component.
The frequency (Hz, the number of vibrations per unit time) of a mass-spring system is
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Where k is the spring constant (mineral wool) and m is the mass (intermediate floor). The lower the f
is, the better the insulation. So by increasing the mass or decreasing the spring constant we can
achieve the best insulation.
c) Flanking transmission
Flanking transmission is a more complex form of noise transmission where the resultant vibrations
from a noise source are transmitted to other rooms of the building usually by elements of structure
within the building. For example, in a steel framed building, once the frame itself is set into motion
the effective transmission can be pronounced.
In a building, a fraction of the sound transmission between two rooms may go by a flanking building
element, such as the outer wall or the ceiling. In order to avoid this, the manufacturers instructions
must be followed carefully. The figure shows the principal solutions for an outer wall.

Solutions for reducing the risk of flanking transmission


There are often requirements for a safety margin in the different sound data of the elements in order
to avoid flanking transmission.
HVAC noise
In the majority of rooms, the most common source of disturbing noise is mechanical system noise or
HVAC noise. Here are some factors to be considered when designing different installations for
buildings:

The location of different machinery and HVAC equipment in a building should be chosen well
at the beginning of the building design.

HVAC equipment should be carefully selected with low sound input levels.

All the possible vibrations from the equipment should be isolated.

Fan noise should be insulated with silencers.

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Here is an example of sound attenuation in a 500 mm rectangular duct:

Sound barriers
Sound or noise barriers, such as walls or screens, are designed to create an acoustic shadow by
blocking the free flow of sound waves. The reduction in sound level within this shadow zone behind
the barrier is dependent on frequency. At high frequencies, the effect of the barrier is clear, when in
low frequencies (long wavelength) the shadow effect is diminished.
The sound barrier location has to be well chosen. To work best, the barrier must make the sound
travel as far as possible from the direct route and change direction by the greatest angle. The best
effect of a screen is if it is placed close to the noise source. Half way between these two is the worst
position. The attenuation of a screen is mainly determined by the effective screen height, H , and the
width of the screen compared to the size of the noise source (see the picture below).

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Screens inside buildings must always be combined with a sound absorbing roof to avoid reflection.
Normally, the effect of a screen inside a building is about 5 10 dBA. The sound reduction index for
the screen has to be about 20 25 dBA.

Sound classification
The materials ability to absorb sound is generally presented with absorption coefficients measured in
different frequencies. This means in practice that one material has a number of different absorption

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coefficients based on frequencies.


When specifying a suitable absorption class for each product, a product is first measured according to
EN ISO 354. The result from this test is an absorption curve, which declares absorption coefficients
for each frequency used in the test.
A weighted sound absorption coefficient (w) is a result from comparison between the sound
absorption coefficient values at standard frequencies and reference curve in accordance with ISO
11654. The w is communicated by all suspended ceiling suppliers in Europe as it is the method
which has been adopted as the norm for CE marking of suspended ceilings.
EN ISO 11654 is also used to classify the sound absorption materials based on the measured
absorption curves to categories from A to E. Class A has the best ability to absorb sound, and E has
the weakest. The installation method together with material properties has a great impact on the
result.
This classification system helps designers to compare and select the suitable absorption material for
different purposes. Stone wool-based acoustic slabs are generally the best A class.
Example: When comparing the different products on the basis of their absorption class.
Product 1 has absorption class A and product 2 absorption class C with the same installation method.
This means that the absorption coefficient of product 1 is about 50 % better than product 2. The task
is to design a kindergarten playroom with a reverberation time of 0.6 seconds. After calculating the
amount of needed absorption material we can see that room dimensions are such that product 1 has
to cover the whole ceiling of the room, and also a large part of the walls, to achieve the required
reverberation time. If we choose product 2, we have to use one and a half times the amount of
product compared to product 1 in order to achieve the same reverberation time. In practice, the
situation leads to the fact that there is not enough mounting platform available for product 2.
w

Sound absorption class

1.000.950.90

0.850.80

0.750.700.650.60

0.550.500.450.400.350.30 D
0.250.200.15

0.100.050.00

Not classified

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