Husht Acoustics Guide

Achieving a good sound environment, to suit a variety of activities and building types, is the science of Room Acoustics.  The three main design considerations are: the volume and shape of the space, the people and the activities taking place.

Noise is unwanted sound, sometimes loud and often low frequency. It is generally unpleasant and disturbing; in the workplace, it can lead to loss of productivity.

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Unwanted noise can:

  • Increase stress levels
  • Impact on our well-being
  • Reduce concentration
  • Induce fatigue and headaches
  • Increase heart rate
  • Increase blood pressure
  • Induce irritability
  • Disturb sleep
  • Slow academic and research performance

Creating an appropriate acoustic environment

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.

Enhancing Performance

A balanced and calculated approach, taking into account the following four factors, will lead to a sound environment for the intended activity. The reverberation time, auditory strength (dB levels), speech clarity and sound propagation can be calculated in advance, to comply with the relevant legal standards or best practise. When the design is in line with the aforementioned acoustic principles, the space will enhance performance and play a crucial role in creating a comfortable environment.

There are four basic acoustic phenomena:

1

Sound Transmission

Sound energy is transmitted through the air (air borne) and via the building fabric (vibration). Consideration should be given to the density of the materials used in line with the desired reduction in decibels (dB). To understand the outcome we need to first understand the frequencies in play.
2

Absorption

How much of the sound energy is absorbed, which usually has a positive impact on the room. For example, the more absorbent materials used, the lower the reverberation will be.
3

Reflection

This is the change in direction of sound waves; it can dramatically affect the way we perceive the feel and comfort of the environment. If the surfaces are hard and smooth, problematic flutter echoes may occur, the result being a noisier, more reverberant space.
4

Diffusion

Diffusion is the breaking up of sound waves via furnishings, plants and other rough surfaces. The interrupted sound waves will be scattered to be more easily absorbed.

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