Architectural acoustics, (also known as room acoustics and building acoustics), is the science and engineering of achieving a good sound within a building. Some of the goals of architectural acoustics are improving speech intelligibility in a theatre or conference room, enhancing the quality of music in a concert hall or recording studio, or suppressing unwanted noise in homes and offices.
Architectural acoustic design is typically done by an acoustical consultant and is comprised of several components:
- Exterior Space Noise Control analyzes the noise transmissions from a building’s exterior elements to the interior and visa versa. Typical noise paths are roofs, doors, windows, or any penetrations. Exterior noise control is accomplished with the use of sound blocking products, and acoustic doors and windows. Residential noise control is extremely important when designing a new home in close proximity to a busy roadway or under the flight path of an airport. Commercial noise control may involve quieting noisy rooftop HVAC units which can transmit unwanted noise through the roof structure or possibly to surrounding homes and buildings, and often depend on local municipal codes.
- Intra-Space Noise Control is about limiting noise transmission from one interior building element to another such as walls, ceilings, doors, windows, or ductwork. This is accomplished with mass loaded vinyl noise barriers, resilient isolation clips, high STC acoustic doors and windows, pipe and duct lagging, and HVAC silencers. One common sound path that is often missed is the flanking path over the top of wall partitions that do not go all the way to the plenum where dropped ceiling systems are used. This can be remedied by installing a noise barrier composite from the top of the wall to the plenum, replacing the standard ceiling tiles with high performance acoustic barrier ceiling tiles, or the addition of a fire rated barrier composite placed on top of the existing tiles.
- Interior Space Noise Control involves controlling a room’s surfaces based on its absorption and reflection properties. A room typically has a lot of hard parallel surfaces that can produce sound reflections and excessive reverberation time leading to poor speech intelligibility. Reverberation time can be calculated and then reduced with the addition of acoustic panels and baffles which absorb sound energy when sound waves collide with them as opposed to reflecting the energy. To reduce reverberation in a performance venue where the room still needs to be “live”, a mixture of diffusion and absorption is used. Acoustical diffusers are designed in shape to scatter sound waves rather than absorb them. It is common for architects to angle reflective surfaces when designing concert halls to achieve this effect. The addition of sound masking can be used to improve speech privacy by increasing background sound with the use of sound masking systems sometimes referred to as “white noise generators”. Sound masking produces the most dramatic improvement in speech privacy with the least disruption and is very often used in conjunction with acoustic wall or ceiling panels.
- Mechanical Noise Control involves controlling noise produced by building services such as HVAC systems, elevators, electrical generators, or any other infrastructure equipment that may be emitting unwanted noise or vibration. Mechanical noise control can be achieved with the use of modular steel barriers and enclosures, noise barrier composites, HVAC silencers and louvers, vibration isolators, and high STC acoustic doors.
Today’s modern architectural products are designed to fit seamlessly with room design so that they are aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. Stretchwall fabric systems allow architects to integrate absorption into a room that molds and adapts to their designs insuring a meticulous finish. Pre-fabricated acoustical panels can be used as an alternative to meet lower budget costs, and can be custom factory cut to any size or shape up to 5’ x 10’, and are available with several different mounting methods for ease of installation.
In today’s modern society, architectural acoustics are more important then ever allowing us to live in and work in a more pleasing and productive environment.