Acoustics in buildings, a problem that is beginning to be spotted
Acoustics is a bit like the unseen character of architects. When we look at plans for a future building, we still see few annotations on acoustic comfort. While yet, this is becoming an increasingly badly experienced problem. A YouGov study found that more than half of Britons surveyed suffered from unwanted noise in their homes, and 35% of them said the noise affected their sleep.
To overcome this problem, the American association “Architecture Today” brought together 4 eminent specialists in the field to try to find avenues for improvement. In the form of a webinar called “Noise Matters”. So how do you solve future noise pollution problems when designing a building? We detail here the conclusions of this fascinating exchange.
Think and define acoustics
The first to intervene was Dr Oliver Wolff, head of building physics at Geberit. He first highlighted the complexity of acoustic design. “What is the definition of too loud noise? There isn’t one, it’s unique to everyone, “says Helen Sheldon, partner at RBA Acoustics. Thus 2 residents of a building, exposed to the same nuisances, will experience them differently. A first difficulty in acoustic design. In any case, speakers all agree on one point. The best way to deal with potential noise issues is to consider them as early as possible in the design process. A postulate that will remain as a common thread throughout the discussion.
Ben Burgess, Associate Director of Buro Happold, identifies 6 key factors to consider in the acoustic design of a building. Which are: noises coming from outside (transport, etc.), noise emanating from activities inside the building, the level of sound insulation between spaces, control of acoustics and reverberation of the play and the design of audiovisual and sound systems.
Aurelization, the solution for better acoustic design?
For Dr. Chilton, we don’t always go for the best acoustic response because we have to strike a balance between acoustics, cost, the need for fresh air and environmental concerns. The best way to do this, he says, is “to take a wellness approach.” A space must support the occupants’ ability to perform a task. It must give them a sense of autonomy and make them comfortable.
Second line of thought: he proposes the “auralisation” of buildings. What is that ? It is the ability to show how a building will sound, as opposed to a visualization, that shows what it will look like. To illustrate his point, he presents a specific achievement. Burridge Gardens, a residential project backing onto the busy rail lines of Clapham Junction, south London. Thanks to this process, the noise impact of train traffic was significantly reduced.
By working with the architects on buildings position, Chilton was able to help them put up an additional building that shields others from noise. On this one building, engineers worked with architects to help meet client’s desire to avoid a watertight facade with mechanical ventilation. Instead, he used noise-canceling vents which can provide adequate daily ventilation.
The webinar mainly pointed out the great complexity of implementing an acoustic design. But areas for improvement were nonetheless mentioned. They go through an approach based on well-being. And by this famous auralisation, a modeling of the sound of the building. To be continued…
Listen to the full webinar session: