A good sound environment usually occurs naturally outdoors; our ears are tuned to the natural environment, where the sky absorbs noise. Good room acoustics often requires us to adapt an unnatural indoor environment i.e. hard, reflective surfaces, by reducing noise levels and eliminating reverberation (echo). Sometimes there is a need to reduce sound propagation, such as in an open plan office or a restaurant. Conversely, music in a concert hall needs to be heard clearly in every seat position.
More complex environments, such as manufacturing, need to comply with Health & Safety standards, preventing excessive noise exposure. The maximum sound pressure level is typically at 80dB (as per HSE guidelines).
A good acoustic environment can increase our ability to learn, work and heal. The Equalities Act ensures that optimal conditions should be available to all. People should be at the forefront of any acoustic design – young children, the elderly and hearing impaired have different acoustic requirements. So, the interaction between the people, the space and the activity, should play a major part in the overall acoustic vision and ultimate design.