Building Acoustics

Building acoustics is concerned with how sound reacts within a building. This encompasses both acoustic separation between spaces, and how sound behaves within the space itself. Good acoustic design ensures that where speech intelligibility or musical clarity is important, the room supports this. It is also key to controlling privacy between sensitive spaces, from bedrooms to classrooms.


Building Acoustics

Although at first you’re more likely to notice how a building looks, you often become aware of the building’s acoustics – often because they are poor. Problems such as a lack of privacy between hotel rooms, a highly reverberant restaurant where the noise is unbearable, or being unable to sleep because of the sound of a nearby road, are easily avoided by involving an acoustic consultant in your project.
It’s proven that good acoustic design improves the educational attainment of children in primary school, and helps hospital patients recover more quickly. Productivity in offices increases along with staff satisfction. And of course, a concert hall isn’t a concert hall if it doesn’t sound amazing. Acoustics also matters in areas you may have never considered, for example in confidential interview rooms and open plan offices.
Read on to find our more about our building acoustics expertise, and to learn more about how good acoustic design enhances our everyday and cultural lives.

Room Acoustics

Nobody should have to suffer an environment where they can’t easily understand what is being said, where music turns into a mess of noise instead of a transforming experience, or where they can’t concentrate because of the mush of noise all around them. Yet millions of us accept this as part of our everyday lives.

Working in conjunction with the architect and design team, we seek to integrate acoustic treatments into a space so that they are sympathetic to the design intent as well as meeting the client’s acoustic aspirations for the space. We also troubleshoot existing problematic spaces, including churches and community halls.

Using the ODEON acoustic modelling package we are able to examine and predict a wide range of acoustic parameters, allowing us to optimise the quantity and placement of acoustic treatments whilst providing value to our clients.

Facade Sound Insulation and Ventilation Strategy

In the crossover between environmental noise and building acoustics – quite literally – sit building facades. We use the data gathered from our noise survey, and sometimes from the acoustic model of the site, to assess the level of sound insulation needed to ensure that people are not disturbed as they go about their lives. This includes consideration of appropriate noise levels for sleep and rest (BS 8233) but also noise levels for commercial and office space where a controlled level of background noise can in fact be desirable.

As well as specifying the acoustic performance of glazing and the wall buildup, acoustic consultants examine whether external noise levels are such that windows can be opened to provide everyday ventilation or whether alternative systems, from trickle vents to MVHR, are needed. Even in noisy areas, however, we never advocate for sealed windows, believing that occupants should have control over their environment.

Sound Insulation

Sound insulation is the level of acoustic separation between spaces. This can be both airborne (e.g. controlling voices, music) and impact (controlling footfall for example). It’s critical to consider in any building where acoustic separation and privacy between spaces is essential to their use, including residential, educational and commercial settings. As well as these ‘everyday’ scenarios, sound insulation is increasingly a factor in mixed use developments with cafes and commercial space directly under apartments. We have also worked on spaces as diverse as police interview rooms, and music rehearsal rooms.

We control sound insulation by optimising the specification of floor and wall partitions, matching their performance to the specific source that we are trying to control. The solution for low frequency music is not the same as for mid frequency speech, for example. Solutions include a mixture of mass, resilience and air absorption. Acoustic detailing at partition junctions and for services penetrations is key in ensuring that the performance of the wall or floor is not compromised, and we work with the design team to develop the most appropriate solutions for each project.

Noise from Building Services

Most commercial and performing arts buildings are mechanically ventilated, but this is also becoming a more and more popular option in residential and educational developments. Mechanical ventilation systems generate noise, both from the machinery and fans themselves and from regenerated noise as air flows through the ductwork.

dBx Acoustics consultants review the noise data for services equipment and calculate the level of noise transfer to the room served. This includes not only duct losses and regenerated noise, but the effect of the room itself. Using these results we are able to specify acoustic attenuators to be installed within the system to control noise levels as required. We can also review proposed M&E layouts to identify potential problems and suggest modifications before design is finalised.