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Acoustics in Architecture

One of the things I like most about the architectural profession is that it gives you the opportunity to work on very different projects, not only from the design point of view but also from a technical point of view. 

 

At KVIST we have had the opportunity to work in different project with different acoustic needs, from a very specialized type of building, working really close with acoustician specialists to small office where the level of noise is really important regarding to privacy for the clients.  

 

The knowledge and expertise we had to develop for these projects in terms of acoustics and how the sound works, is something that can be used in any other project that demands a quality treatment of the sound, from offices with lots of people to schools on libraries.

  1. How the sounds works.

Before designing a building where sound plays an important role is fundamental that we understand a couple of basic of acoustics.

When we are talking of acoustics related to architecture there are to main things to have in mind: Acoustic isolation and acoustic conditioning. 

 

Acoustic isolation: To avoid o minimize the transmission of the sound trough the walls and the rest of constructive elements we have to know the weak points were the sound can flow: directly through the walls, through ductwork, through electrical outlets and through the ceiling and trough the floor. Is really important that we use an adequate soundproof material for the constructive elements but how we design them is crucial to minimize these weak points and create better isolated space.

 
Concept sketch of how the sound is transmitted into a room.

Concept sketch of how the sound is transmitted into a room.

Concept sketch for the double skin. We can see that the interior skin is not in direct contact with the floor or the external skin. Between the two skins would be the soundproofing material filling the air gap to create a better acoustic isolation.

Concept sketch for the double skin. We can see that the interior skin is not in direct contact with the floor or the external skin. Between the two skins would be the soundproofing material filling the air gap to create a better acoustic isolation.

 

From a technical point of view one thing that works really well is have a double skin when the requirements of the room are really high, separated between each other but acoustic materials or just an air gap and where the joining elements are specially treated with some elastic material like neoprene. This kind of construction is mostly used for rooms where high level of noise are going to be produce and they are close to a space where a high acoustic control is needed.

·      Acoustic conditioning: when we talk about acoustic conditioning we are thinking in how we are going to treat the internal space, the materials we are going to use inside. One thing we could use diffusers or absorbent to create a better acoustics results in the room for more specific spaces as a recording studios, or just curtains and carpets are really absorbents.

 
Absorbent and diffusers v2.jpg
 

 

2.     Zooning 

 Zooning is important in any project but maybe even more important when we are designing a building with different acoustic needs. It is necessary to study the acoustic requirements of each room and group them according to these to avoid interferences and problems of sound filtering.

When it’s possible using different levels is an easy way to separate spaces with different acoustic needs. 

 

We are working is a refurbishment office project at the moment in a relatively small space. Creating a functional meeting room separated from the rest of the office was a really important issue. Privacy is related not only to seeing but to hearing and we need to create a comfortable meeting room where the clients could meet at the same time that the people in the office were working so we create a mezzanine to allocate the meeting room.

 
Cambridge court: Mezzanine for meeting office creating a separate environment from the rest of the office.

Cambridge court: Mezzanine for meeting office creating a separate environment from the rest of the office.

 
 
Markfield Road: The 3 different areas we have in Markfield Road by acoustic proofing demanding: Recording studios pods, Offices and the Event space.  [Image: Ten87 and 5 miles]

Markfield Road: The 3 different areas we have in Markfield Road by acoustic proofing demanding: Recording studios pods, Offices and the Event space. [Image: Ten87 and 5 miles]

 

3.    Circulation. 

Continuing with the previous idea, the access routes to the different areas are also an important element to study. Is really important to know the needs of each space and the needs of the personas are going to use these spaces. It is important to acknowledge the people who are going to visit what parts of the building, what kind of use they are going to make of it, schedules that they will have and if they are going to need to bring equipment with them. Is really important to understand the user journey. 

All these things must be considered when designing the accesses and corridors, not only in their dimensions but in their relations among them. Different spaces with different schedules can’t share circulation in order to make them work properly. 

We the designers need to have always in mind the different privacy levels. We need to be able to make a clear difference from the public spaces to the most private ones, creating a hierarchy of privacy according to the needs of the buildings, this hierarchy could be the same as the soundproofing hierarchy or not, depending of what kind of building we are designing.

 

In 2016 we work as an architects and interior designers in a spa in Plymouth were privacy was really important and also creating the proper environment to achieve the peace feeling we were looking for in this luxury space


4.  Materials and furniture.

When we design a building with special acoustic needs, we do not just think about its design from the constructive point of view, the finishes and the furniture are equally important. 

The sound are waves that are transmitted through the constructive elements as we have already spoken, but they are also reflected in them, so we can use materials with an acoustic absorption capacity that will make the space in which we find ourselves have less reverberation. Carpet, rugs, textile on the walls, curtains ... these elements in addition to helping create warm and pleasant spaces for work will provide acoustic qualities to the space. 

It is not necessary to saturate the space of decorative elements with the excuse that they will help acoustically to the room, so it is advisable to use here also some basic principles of interior design, complementation of colours and textures, and if we can use the pallete of company colours or include some branding element.

 
Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest