From home life to work life; remote and in an office, building acoustics play an important role in most people’s everyday lives, helping to determine how sound is transmitted and received to people within and outside of buildings and structures.

For example, the building acoustics of a school building play a vital role in how effectively teachers project lectures and lessons to a class, thereby influencing how pupils receive their education. Sound and how it reverberates and is transmitted is also important for people in their homes, with good-quality noise prevention tactics helping people control the noise pollution in their homes, which can be vital in getting a good night’s sleep and even just living and working in the building in question.

What are Building Acoustics?

Building acoustics are the method by which noise is controlled within a building. This includes measures in which to reduce noise when necessary (i.e. noise pollution) and how to ensure effective transmission of other sounds throughout a particular space.

The ways in which buildings are constructed have grown increasingly more advanced as the years have gone by. The development of a building now takes more consideration than ever into aspects such as building energy efficiency and the acoustics. Noise plays an important part of people’s lives, and can impact upon both productivity and energy levels.

In the UK, under Building Regulations Approved Document E, it is a legal requirement for qualifying buildings to undergo a sound insulation test. Those requiring a sound insulation test include new blocks of flats, semi-detached houses, hotels and hostels as well as conversions such as in the case of houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs). There are other circumstances where this test may be necessary. If you are unsure whether a building requires sound testing, it is always best to speak to a Building Regulations Testing Specialist such as JosTec.

Acoustics now play a crucial part in the planning process of a building, using various effective tactics to control how sound moves throughout it.

Why are Building Acoustics Important?

Building acoustics are important for workers’ energy levels, wellbeing and productivity. Controlling how sounds move throughout any building can help promote the best environments within buildings and workspaces.

For example, controlling the levels of noise pollution that reach inside someone’s bedroom, reducing this to as little as possible, can help to reduce the overall impact on one’s energy levels. When outside noise pollution is too great, it can have considerable effects on how well people sleep.

Thus, by reducing noise levels caused by exterior factors [noise pollution], the buildings acoustics can help to ensure its occupants get a better night’s rest.

Controlling noise can therefore be seen as important in promoting the health and productivity of those who occupy its space. Research has shown that sound can also have a negative impact on patients recovering in hospitals, noise pollution can result in the following damages to those recovering in hospital:

  • Prolonged, loud noises can cause irritation to patients as well as impairments to their pain tolerance and overall mental wellbeing
  • Surprising outbursts of noises can increase blood pressure and can make patients damage injuries by the noise setting off their reflexes
  • As with residents in their homes, overnight patients can struggle with getting a good night’s sleep when noise pollution is too great

Building acoustics are not only important in reducing noise that may damage a person’s health, they also help to promote effective transmission of different noises to ensure sound is transmitted and spread at optimal levels. From teachers educating a class of children to an orchestra performing to a large audience, creating the optimal acoustics for the space can help to create the optimal transmission of these sounds.

How is Sound Controlled in a Building?

The acoustics of a building, as with most spaces are controlled by a variety of different tactics and influencing factors. These can help to amplify or reduce certain noises and noise levels, helping those within it to project the sounds they want, and eliminate the ones they don’t. Reducing the surrounding noise pollution is one of the main ways sound is controlled within a building.

Essentially, sound is made up of vibrations that are generated from various different objects. This sound travels in waves from its source, and whilst it can be lessened when coming into contact with an object such as a wall or a window, it can still travel through it and reach the inside of a building. Transmission of noise is ultimately caused by vibrations of the molecules that form any solid, liquid or gaseous object.

In the case of solid objects, the molecules are more closely packed together and so noise will travel more clearly through a solid object rather than for example a liquid equivalent, where the molecules are less tightly packed together.

Using certain tactics, a building can help to lessen the amount that this wave can travel through the walls and windows of a building. Buildings can reduce the noise pollution coming into their spaces through a range of different ways, including:

  • Wall insulation
  • Carpet padding
  • Sound insulation curtains
  • Double glazed windows

These methods can be used to protect the spaces within the building from unwanted outside noise. It can also be used to reduce noises from inside the building reaching areas outside of the specified space. For example, reducing the amount of noise that leaves a meeting room where confidential, private information is discussed.

Wall insulation and double-glazed windows can help to not only reduce surrounding noise from reaching the inside of a building, but also to make a building more energy efficient. These two features can help to reduce the escape of heat from a building, making the spaces within it stay warmer for longer, and reducing the need to generate as much heat.

Buildings of all shapes and for all purposes can therefore better their acoustics with effective insulation, helping to enhance the productivity within, be that the recovery of patients in a hospital, the efficiency at which students are educated, or the amount of sleep people get at night.

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