In basic terms, sound is the movement of energy, which flows in a wave frequency, much like the ocean. Sound waves occur when objects vibrate, which then vibrate the air particles and other objects in the vicinity, sending a wave of vibrations to produce the audible noises that the ear eventually hears.
Given the disruptive nature of sound, incorporating it into a project’s design is a key factor of any architectural process – particularly in commercial settings, where ‘sounds of anarchy’ can hamper productivity levels in the workplace. However, this is where architectural acoustics come into play.
Understanding how to control the movement of sound to optimize spaces – especially workplaces where concentration and function are of paramount importance – serves businesses well. Sadly, it’s not so simple; it’s an entire art in itself, and many variables affect the flight path of sound – a room’s features, materials, and design impact how sound travels and, in turn, the people within.
In any case, before architects can even start selecting building materials and where and how they will be used, the following common issues in architectural acoustics must be discussed.
The natural noises in the everyday environment must not be left unaddressed in building and room design. From vehicles and pedestrian traffic to sounds from the great outdoors – no matter the setting – every sound, be it from inside or outside, impacts the noise levels and acoustics in a space, which is an element that needs to be included in the project plants from the very beginning.
Open Concept Areas
Increasingly, businesses worldwide are opting for the design concept of open spaces to encourage employee collaboration and togetherness – a wholesome, productive idea at heart, yet from a design point of view, it’s open season for the hecticness of noise.
In such wide, open spaces, airborne sound enjoys free reign, with nothing to block it in its path. Distracting sounds, like chattering staff and customers, office machinery noises, phones ringing, and other wavelengths can all take over and cultivate a chaotic, loud, and disruptive atmosphere when left unmanaged.
However, thanks to a number of modern design solutions available, commercial and residential spaces can find solace with smart offerings, including professional insulation, acoustic baffles, and clever structural design that manipulates sound waves on their course of peace destruction.
Sound profiles of other rooms also need to be checked. For instance, a break room next to a conference room isn’t a great idea; however, with no alternative, designers would need to ensure quiet and privacy for those in the latter, putting in measures to prevent external sounds from making their way inside.
Mechanical Equipment Positioning
Mechanical gear, such as air conditioning – one that’s crucial to worker welfare but oh-so-noisy – also transmits noise across a building, affecting people’s concentration and ability to communicate and being a general irritation in the office. Therefore, appliance location and mounting need to form part of a project plan.
Overall, getting architectural acoustics right can improve employee productivity in office settings and increase civilians’ living quality in residential areas, which means acoustical design isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity, no matter a project’s size or budget.
Still, sound and architecture are a complex duo and must be addressed right from the beginning, with the above-mentioned challenges within this sector of design commanding attention from day one.