What and Why?
Acoustics are an integral part of many different building types and designs, and usually, just the bare minimum is undertaken to meet statutory requirements without any consideration as to why the acoustic package has been included within the overall specification.
Part of the reasoning behind this may have to do with the area of acoustics being unfamiliar to many of the site based professions.
Be it impact or airborne noise in a residential development or acoustic panels to control reverberation in a school, the acoustic performance levels are predetermined in documents such as Approved Document E or Building Bulletin 93 respectively, but what if we went that one step further and exceeded these requirements or included treatment for applications not governed by such documents?
Noise is now considered to be a factor that can lead to problems with health and well being. After in depth research and analysis by the World Health Organization they have stated:
“Excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.
Traffic noise alone is harmful to the health of almost every third person in the WHO European Region. One in five Europeans are regularly exposed to sound levels at night that could significantly damage health.
WHO/Europe uses evidence on the health effects of noise to identify the needs of vulnerable groups and to offer technical and policy guidance to protect health.”
More information on the WHO and how noise from a wide range of sources has encouraged further research and guidance is available on their website – https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/noise
Positive effect of Good Acoustics
Meeting, or even better, improving on the required levels of acoustic treatments to a space or application provides health and business benefits that may include one or more of the following:
Improve health and well being
Improve working conditions
Reduce risk of legal action or complaints
Prevent sleep disturbance
Value of improving performance versus additional costs.
It is obvious that exceeding the minimum requirements will probably cost more so how do we convince the key stakeholders that this will provide a return on the investment?
Improving performance levels may not mean a huge rise in costs, careful planning and design, using alternate materials or products and implementing these within other elements of the build can all lead to increases in performance levels.
Statutory requirements and guidance documents have been compiled following many years of research and testing, and are continually being updated to account for new techniques or provisions. These may be identified through ongoing research by a wide range of acousticians, scientists and medical specialists. The work we do today may be the next update that further modernises how we treat and view acoustics within buildings and the environment.
As well as health and business benefits other possible benefits of voluntarily improving on required performance levels or introducing an acoustic specification where not legally required, may also:
Improve the prospect of a planning application being granted
Raise the company profile through the provision of a higher quality development or installation
Can be used as a key selling point by exceeding minimum requirements
Cost of poor acoustics?
The cost of poor acoustics can take many forms, not just financial, such as:
Negative effect on health
Loss of revenue
Loss of customers
Loss of productivity
Prohibition notices and fines
Complaints being raised
Poor communication and speech intelligibility
Enhancing the acoustic package may have a financial cost associated with the implementation but it is not lost money. A restaurant with poor acoustics can result in customers either leaving before ordering or not returning. Poor sound insulation may affect privacy or have an impact on other persons within a building.
The use of statutory and guidance documents, implementing the correct designs and material specification will all help meet the performance levels, but do not stop at the bare minimum. Exceed the limits and stand out from the crowd for the right reasons and not the noisy ones.
Look at the overall potential cost of not improving on these before deciding if the extra effort or cost is worth it or not!