Soundproofing for Architects and Interior DesignersHow can architects and designers get acoustics right
There are certain aspects that go into the construction of a new building that most of us take for granted. We expect new buildings to be energy-efficient, accessible, safe, and offer a comfortable environment to conduct business or leisure activities. One element that often gets overlooked by architects and designers when developing a new project is the acoustical aspect.
Studies consistently show that our acoustical environment significantly impacts us in many ways, from our physical and mental health, to our work productivity and beyond. Architects, developers and designers that want to offer cutting edge amenities to their occupants must begin incorporating soundproofing as part of their development process to maintain a competitive advantage and deliver a truly optimized space to their residents.
Ensuring properties are optimally soundproofed as part of their development process can significantly reduce costs, save time and help architects win more projects. With employees back in the office and design trends continuing to drive towards more open, collaborative/communal space concepts, optimizing the way rooms sound has never been more important.
So how can architects and designers get acoustic architecture right? It starts with asking two simple questions: How will a room sound, and how can we make it sound better? Buildingwide acoustical construction methods must be implemented in the initial design process. Once a building is up, the acoustics of each individual space within the building can be treated for better acoustics with aftermarket solutions.
This article will detail our not-to-be-missed soundproofing tips for architects and interior designers alike. We will begin with tips that should be executed in the preliminary planning stages of a building project, all the way to solutions that can be implemented after tenants have moved in:
Consider acoustics early on
To save time and resources in the long run, take soundproofing into consideration as early as possible in the design process. There are many touch points where architects, developers and designers would greatly benefit from considering the audible aspect of their creation and integrating its optimization across their workflow. Hiring a professional to consult at this early stage will surely prove to be beneficial.
Considering soundproofing well in advance in the process can not only save you money but offer architects better chances of winning projects. Imagine designing a huge space with concrete floors, glass walls and very little furniture; It may look great, but will sound horrible once tenants move in and begin using it. An experienced architect will tackle these types of echo issues early during the design process and avoid the need for an expensive aftermarket solution altogether.
Collect and review acoustical related specs
This may include information about floated floors, acoustic windows, design and finishing options and placements of facilities. Detailed data regarding maximum sound penetration and ideal decibel levels for building systems should be accumulated and shared with engineers and contractors, and be taken into consideration as final decisions are made and implemented.
One of the main sources of noise and disruptive vibration in buildings are machines and heavy equipment. When commiting designated areas where these devices will be installed, take into consideration the levels of sound and vibration their operation produces. Sound and vibration generating devices (such as hvac or air ventilation engines) should never be adjacent to open, hollow spaces (such as elevator shafts).Whenever possible, living and working spaces should be designated as further away as possible from noise and vibration inducing machinery.
Decoupling / Floated floors
When it comes to soundproofing, decoupling is one of the most effective techniques builders can use to optimize the sound profile of a space. The decoupling process involves separating two parts of a structure to block noises and vibration from traveling across them. Since most walls are constructed by connecting two drywalls by a single stud, sound and vibration easily travels between walls and rooms, resulting in disruptive noise and vibration.
While it’s significantly more beneficial to begin planning your soundproofing strategy during the design phase, there are plenty of aftermarket solutions to further improve the sound attributes of a room. When considering post building soundproofing, the key term to consider is echo reduction. Echo reduction is accomplished by utilizing sufficient coverage of a wall or ceiling by a sound absorbing material to mitigate noise and minimize reverberation and echo. Generally speaking, the larger an area is covered, the less echo a room will have. Some of the most popular solutions to accomplish this include:
Wall and ceiling finishes
These are the most frequently used soundproofing solutions. They are multifunctional and are a great way to enhance the design of a room as they are available in a variety of shapes and colors. They fall under one of the following categories:
Fabric cover finishes
These are installed over a track and a frame, with the sound-absorbing material is installed inside the frame and the acoustically-transparent fabric (which is thin enough to allow sound waves through it) is stretched over the frame. They can cover a section or a whole wall and can be retrofitted or planned in advance. Fabric cover finishes offer great acoustic coverage and a seamless, continuous appearance. They can fit any angle, shape or curve, offering designers the versatility and freedom to execute any design concept or idea.
Acoustic panels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, both vertical and horizontal. The most popular are ceiling (suspended or flushed) or wall mounted. Free-standing foldable panels are also available and can be moved around to help with echo reduction in various areas of a space as needed. Deciding which panels would be best for your situation will depend on a variety of attributes such as the expected activity in the room and any existing furniture and other materials that are present. Acoustic panels are premade off location, and delivered to the site ready for installation. Unlike fabric covered finishes which are more permanent, acoustic panels can move with a tenant should they decide to relocate.
Furniture and accessories
Utilizing furniture is a fantastic way to help with soundproofing a space. Soft materials absorb sound waves much better than harder materials such as glass or wood. Curtains are a great option to consider, alongside thick carpets which can significantly reduce footfall noise. Utilizing pillows or other fluffy accessories can also significantly help!
Aftermarket walls and ceiling treatments
Walls and ceilings can be thickened with additional layers for further insulation and echo absorption. Doors and windows are usually where sound leakage issues happen, especially when they are facing outdoors, or a loud adjacent space. Both doors and windows can be treated to improve isolation and reduce any sound leakage issues after a space is already built. Lastly, be sure any evident cavities are sealed with a proper acoustic sealer.