A building is an assembly of various materials intertwined to construct something solid and enduring. However, even small adjustments in a building’s plan can lead to unforeseen problems, especially to acoustics and noise control performance. Acoustics and ambient noise are common complaints, but relatively small changes can have big acoustical implications.
When designing a wood-framed floor system for multi-family projects, building to meet the prevailing building code is only the first step in the performance spectrum. Once complying with those requirements, there remains an array of choices a designer can make without materially affecting the project’s overall cost that nonetheless directly affect occupant comfort and the floor’s perceived quality.
Courthouses were historically centrepieces of municipal life, both literally and figuratively. Located in the heart of communities, these buildings formed the core of a city’s civic governance, ensuring peace, justice, and good order. This stature was reflected in the buildings, which were commonly impressive stone and wood edifices designed around a ‘live’ acoustical environment allowing judges and participants to hear everything. However, as the years brought modern technology and evolving needs, these once grand spaces often became closed-in rooms with little natural light, where it became increasingly difficult for occupants to hear the proceedings.
Noise is a well-documented problem in hospitals. In a 2007 study of two facilities, no less than 86 different sources were listed, including patients, staff and visitors talking, and the cacophony produced by televisions, alarms, carts, and doors, along with medical and mechanical equipment.
Acoustical management is a challenge for both design professionals and building occupants. A certain level of background sound within a building is expected, and generally contributes to a pleasant ambient environment. Unwanted noise can cause occupants to feel irritable, distracted, anxious, hostile, or annoyed. This is why it is critical to closely review the intended use and design of commercial environments so sound levels do not become ‘noise’ concerns.
The term ‘speech privacy’ refers to how well a conversation is overheard and understood by an unintended listener. The need to prevent sound from intruding into adjacent spaces in both closed and open-plan settings is a concern in various buildings.
In the last decade, sustainable, flexible, and collaborative design trends have systematically eliminated many methods of controlling acoustics. The percentage of open-plan space has grown and so have occupant densities. At the same time, partitions have lowered or disappeared altogether, and the use of absorptive finishes has diminished, allowing noises to travel further and last longer.
It is no surprise recording studios and radio/television broadcast studios are among the most demanding acoustic environments. They are precisely tuned to achieve the optimal acoustic effects, such as background noise elimination, delivery of clear, crisp speech, absence of echo, and precise use of reverberation.
Basic acoustic requirements have long been part of the National Building Code of Canada (NBC), which is the model for the provincial codes, including the Ontario Building Code (OBC). The only demand is walls surrounding residential suites must be documented to meet a specific sound isolation performance.
Attending a musical performance can be captivating. Listening to the beautiful sound and spectacle, the effortlessness of the musicians’ skills, it can be easy to forget the hours, months, and even years of practice that make the memorable performance possible. In a similar way, the factors behind successful auditorium acoustics often go unrecognized, including one of the most visible elements: the acoustical shell. The most important considerations in a successful installation—acoustics, function, and esthetics—are illustrated in a unique project at the University of Western Ontario (UWO).