Rethinking Acoustics

Understanding ‘silence’ and ‘quiet’ within the built environment
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Sponsored by LogiSon Acoustic Network
By Viken Koukounian, PhD, P.Eng., and Niklas Moeller

Conclusion

Although sound is ubiquitous—a constant and inescapable experience—its positive role within the built environment is not commonly appreciated, leading to ongoing debate about the control (or lack thereof) of background sound levels within various types of facilities. Reviewing the technical and popular use of various words allows one to gain appreciation for how they can lead to misunderstandings of what it takes to achieve an effective acoustic environment and, more specifically, the role played by background sound set to a controlled level and spectrum. The distinction between “noise” and “sound” is expansive, and the implications are significant in terms of subjective and objective attributes of the built environment. It is by refining the definitions of those terms, as well as that of “silence” and “quiet,” that appreciable opportunities can be fostered to improve the design of the built environment and promote occupant well-being.

Viken Koukounian, PhD, P.Eng., is an acoustical engineer at KR Moeller Associates Ltd., and an active member of numerous international standardization organizations. ca.linkedin.com/in/vikenkoukounian

Niklas Moeller is the vice-president of K.R. Moeller Associates Ltd., manufacturer of the LogiSon Acoustic Network and MODIO Guestroom Acoustic Control.

Our company has been dedicated to the design and manufacture of sound masking technologies for more than 40 years. After taking this course, we hope you find the topic of workplace acoustics less mysterious…and feel inspired to create spaces that sound as good as they look. logison.com

End Notes

1In the current discussion of appropriate noise exposure limits for activity-based spaces (e.g., for learning, recovery, sleep)—such as those set by the World Health Organization (WHO)—the focus continues to be on sound level with little consideration of the other factors playing into human evaluations of acoustics. There is little appreciation of psychoacoustical parameters, which would consider the existing level and spectrum of background sound in review of the intruding sound from the noise source. By way of example, lacking understanding of the existing level and spectrum of sound in space, it is impossible to conclude sleep disruption can occur as a result of intruding traffic noise at any defined value (e.g., 30 dBA).

2In any case, the dBA levels produced by traditional HVAC varies and this equipment cannot generate a spectrum conducive to speech privacy.

3Reference from Speech Privacy in Buildings (1962).

4Again, this considers field-tested sound transmission class (STC) values reflecting composite acoustic performance of all sound transmission paths.

 

LogiSon Acoustic Network Our company has been dedicated to the design and manufacture of sound masking technologies for more than 40 years. After taking this course, we hope you find the topic of workplace acoustics less mysterious…and feel inspired to create spaces that sound as good as they look.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in October 2021


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