Why should acoustics matter to designers?
The shape of a room determines the movement of sound waves within it. The angles, height, shape, and size of the floors, ceilings, and walls all influence the sound activity in the space. Considering each of these aspects, alongside the space’s intended purpose and building materials, should give you a good idea of how sound will behave—and inform the specification of acoustic treatment and furnishings.
Reverberation Time (RT) is the measurement of time taken for a sound to decay by 60dB after the sound has stopped. Reverberation is a muddle of sound reflections in a space that combine to create a discordant noise—exacerbated by dense, hard, reflected surfaces like concrete and glass. Some spaces, like concert halls and cathedrals, require high RT’s. However, commercial, education, and hospitality spaces should have low RT’s to support balance, productivity, and the general well-being of the occupants. The Reverberation Time of your space should be considered to ensure the best acoustic treatment is specified.
Environmental noise such as wind and rain, traffic noise, the hum of computers and air conditioning contribute to the level of sound energy in a space. This is called background noise, and is measured in decibels. For most people, a little background noise is helpful, however, as background noise increases it can cause stress, fatigue, and a lack of productivity. Designing a space with background noise in mind will ensure a peaceful, comfortable environment.