Acoustics 101: Incorporate Acoustics Early to Perfect Your Design
May 17, 2021
We’ve all been in a room with poor acoustics. Whether it’s a lecture hall where you can’t understand the professor, an auditorium where you can’t hear the speaker/orchestra or an office space that resonates like an echo chamber, we know that sound can determine the usability of any environment.
Sound management is arguably the top factor contributing to how comfortable a person is in a particular space. The way we hear and comprehend sounds has psychological and emotional ramifications. When sounds are unintelligible or muffled, those who are attempting to process the information can experience confusion, frustration and anxiety.
So why are acoustics so frequently an afterthought?
Designers, architects and even consumers naturally focus on the aesthetics of a room. From paint colors to light fixtures to furniture placement, the functionality of elements we can see and touch are most often given priority in the planning process, while the ways in which we hear are overlooked until the space is in use.
Unfortunately, this results in auditoriums, lecture halls, office spaces and worship facilities that must undergo further renovations to install acoustic panels and treatments in order to make these spaces useable. This extends the length of a project, creates financial challenges and requires modifications to the original designs.
Incorporate acoustics into your design from the outset to avoid these challenges.
Modern acoustic solutions go beyond the standard wall panels and ceiling tiles of decades past. Now they can be incorporated into spaces as design showpieces with vibrant colors, geometric shapes, sleek finishes and customizable art options.
Three Acoustic Considerations in the Design Process
We’ve outlined 3 tips to keep in mind as you consider the look and placement of acoustics in your future designs.
Purpose of a Space
Specifying the primary use of any space is imperative when determining the acoustic solutions that are best for your design. Will the room be used for large productions or small study groups? Even when building multi-purpose spaces, planning acoustically for the main use of any room is critical to avoiding the pains and expenses of retrofitting.
Once you’ve determined the primary purpose of a space, consider your blueprint. Whether you’re working on a new build or with a renovation, you’ll need to take note of the height of the ceilings, the slope of the floor and placement of seating as you plan for the perfect acoustics in the space. Consider the other materials and furnishings that will be incorporated into the design as well and how those surfaces may absorb or further reverberate sound. Keep in mind: visible barriers do not necessarily obstruct sound. In fact, some visible barriers (partitions, doors) can make sound louder in certain spaces.
Current trends toward minimalist and industrial designs focus on clean lines, hard surfaces and high ceilings which create louder spaces and harsher sounds. Planning how to absorb and block excess reverberations is a necessary art and understanding the intricacies of your structure will guide you to the best acoustic solutions for your space. It also saves you time, money and resources in the process!
Now that you’ve considered the interior facets of the room, consider the external noises you may encounter. Locate HVAC systems, fans, generators, ventilation and windows. Consider how close your space is to high-traffic areas in the building like breakrooms, bathrooms or copy rooms. Is a lecture hall next to a music room or cafeteria? This will determine the type of acoustic treatments that are used in a space.
Solutions for Every Aesthetic & Price Point
With so many options available for every budget, acoustic panels can seamlessly fit into and enhance any designer or architect’s vision.
Traditional acoustic treatments are comprised of fabric wrapped fiberglass and are the most economical option in the acoustic world. This material can be cut into wall panels, ceiling clouds and baffles in a variety of shapes and wrapped with fabrics in an array of brilliant colors to match any design style. Digital print options are also available to turn your favorite photos into a custom sound-absorbing fixture in any space. With so many choices, it’s easy to design the perfect solution for any reverberation issue you may encounter at a cost-effective price point.
Felt acoustic options are beloved by designers and architects because of their versatility and visual appeal. Both beautiful and environmentally friendly, felt acoustics are offered in vibrant colors, cool shapes, digital print options, cut-outs and unique patterns. With this contemporary option, you can create your ultimate acoustic environment, where cutting-edge design and sustainability meet excellent acoustic performance.
Wood acoustic solutions are the most luxurious of the three soundproofing options. More architectural in nature, wood acoustic treatments require a longer lead time and more in-depth involvement from the beginning of a project. Wood wall and ceiling panels are perforated to provide excellent acoustical value and are available in a myriad of popular and exotic wood veneer types to fit your most ambitious designs.
Let Acoustics Inspire Your Next Design
Sound determines the ambience of a room, setting the tone for how people will experience a space. Because it has such an enormous impact on the usability of a lecture hall, auditorium, classroom or office, acoustics merit consideration from the start of any new build or renovation. The right acoustics will not only enhance your design, but when considered from the beginning, will save you time, money and resources. And with so many options available, acoustic treatments can serve as inspiration for your next project!
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