The Untold Benefits Of Acoustic Applications In Architecture (Part 2)
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Where silence should be common sense and the proper acoustic applications can make the difference!
Written by: Jordan Chia
Can you recover in an environment that doesn’t even allow you to sleep properly? How about trying to pay attention in a class where you can barely hear half of what the lecturer is saying?
In the first part of this article, we shared with you a story that highlighted the undeniable benefits of acoustics. In this post, we will discuss tangible beneﬁts when considering acoustic applications as part of architectural design in some major areas.
Imagine that you are a doctor, communicating to a nurse the right amount of medicine to be administered to a patient through injection. The environment is in chaos, with beeping sounds from heart rate monitors, squeaks from passing carts, and the boomy resonance of endless chattering. With this amount of distraction in the background, what are the chances of you making an error? In one instance, an anaesthesiologist misunderstood a surgeon’s instruction to administer a drug by an error of 8,000 units due to loud musicᵃ. While enforcing regulations can prevent such devastating mistakes, acoustic applications can go a long way in addressing unwanted ambient noise. Most hospitals have hard ﬂoors and ceilings which readily reﬂect sounds, drastically increasing noise levels in an area full of beeping equipment and alarms. Reducing this problem could be a simple matter of replacing hard tiles with sound absorbing ones. A studyᵇ in 2004 noted that by replacing just the ceiling tiles, patients could sleep more easily and reported better nursing care. More effort can be put into hospital architectural design to reduce noise transmission through room walls or ﬂanking paths. Doing so can aid patients to rest and recovery, while bringing down the stress levels of the medical staff.
Teachers face relentless amounts of noise throughout their careers, always having to sustain a volume higher than that of students and ambient noise. In rooms with poor acoustic applications, reverberation off the walls amplify the the slightest whispers of students, increasing the noise ﬂoor. This leads to an increased frequency of reprimanding which takes away from the main goals of the institution. Students too are not spared. Excessively long reverb times in classrooms have led to as much as a 50% loss in intelligibility in one studyᶜ. This impacts the ability for students to concentrate and make the most out of their time in school. By installing acoustic absorbers in classrooms, speech intelligibility can be increased dramatically. One researchᵈ shows that classroom refurbishment improved reverberation time and speech intelligibility, even meeting standards for integrative schooling of children with speech impairment. Quality of education can be enhanced simply by taking acoustics into account.
a) Journal of the Association of Operating Room Nurses (November, 2003)
b) Blomkvist et al. (in press, 2004)
c) Siebein 1998, A Study Conducted on 600 classrooms in Florida
d) H. -G. Schönwälder, 2004, Noise in Schools – Causes and Reduction
Health and Well Being
Noise from neighbours can be a source of stress and annoyance. The exposure of excessive noise to pregnant mothers has been shown to cause high rates of birth defectsᵉ. A studyᶠ in Germany on acoustics in schools shows that the heart rate of teachers has a near direct co-relation with noise levels, and suggest that excessive noise levels has negative effects on cardiovascular health.
e) Noise: A Health Problem United States Environmental Protection Agency, Oﬃce of Noise Abatement and Control, Washington, D.C. 20460, August, 1978
f ) Universitât Bremen, 2005, Acoustic Ergonomics of Schools
As shown, acoustic applications have signiﬁcant effects on our health and well-being. These problems cannot be completely resolved by modifying behaviors. Therefore, acoustic considerations when designing architecture can serve an important role in increasing not just our productivity – but also our well-being and quality of life.