What is ACOUSTIC COMFORT?
ACOUSTIC COMFORT is the well-being and feeling of a building or house occupants regarding the acoustic environment (noise-producing transport, equipment, activity, neighborhood). Providing acoustic comfort consists in minimizing intruding noise and to maintain satisfaction among residents (home and workspace).
Research has shown that well-designed sound environments in offices or schools help to improve concentration and enable better communication. Learning is more effective and less tiring when students can comfortably hear and understand their teacher. In hospitals, reducing the stress and sleeplessness created by high noise levels helps patients recover faster and facilitates the work of the staff. In our own homes, protection from noises contributes to a sense of security and privacy.
Aside from direct damage to hearing, unwanted noise can be detrimental to our health in other ways. Additional consequences of noise exposure include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, headaches, hormonal changes, psychosomatic illnesses, sleep disorders, decreased physical and mental performance, stress reactions, aggression, constant feelings of displeasure and a decreased sense of general wellbeing.
What’s clear, is that when we are acoustically comfortable – when unwanted noise is blocked and we can clearly hear beneficial sounds – we’re more productive, happier and experience fewer health issues.
How does it work?
Acoustic comfort is affected by the levels and the nature of the sound experienced in a space.
The physiological aspect of ACOUSTIC COMFORT
The human ear is comprised of three parts: the outer, middle and inner ears, which respectively receive, transmit and detect sound. Sound pressures set the eardrum in vibration and this movement is transmitted to the inner ear, where nerves are stimulated.
The physical aspect of ACOUSTIC COMFORT
Sound is a mechanical disturbance of a medium, which may be gas, liquid or solid. The distinction between loud and quiet sounds is made by the difference in scale of the pressure changes. Given the wide range of sound pressures ti which the human ears respond, the magnitude of an acoustical quantity is given in decibels (dB). The pitch of a sound is expressed as frequency in Hertz (Hz), which is the number of cycles of vibration per second. A healthy human ear is sensitive to a very wide range of frequencies
DID YOU KNOW?
Epidemiological studies have shown, for instance, that the risk of heart attack for those living close to very frequently used streets is around 20% higher than for residents of quieter streets, and that the risk of obesity increases with the proximity of an airport.
DID YOU KNOW?
A study in 1998 found that there was up to a 66% drop in performance for a ‘memory for prose’ task when participants were exposed to different types of background noise.
British Journal of Psychology 89:3, pp 499–517
What contributes to ACOUSTIC COMFORT?
The acceptance of any given sound depends on many factors that vary according to the type of building, the type of activity being performed, and the social and cultural habits of the occupants. The quality of sound in any given indoor space is determined by the sources of the sound or noise and quality of the building envelope including:
- Exterior noise (nearby traffic, neighbors…)
- Interior noise (music, phone conversations…)
- Impact noise (footsteps…)
- Sound vibrations through the structure
- Equipment noise (ventilation systems, electronic equipment, pipes, elevators…)
The effect of noise on a specific individual depends on many different factors. These include the predictability and familiarity of the sound, the controllability of the sound, personal attitude and sensitivities, information on the contents of the sound, and the necessity for the sound. For instance, we are more likely to tolerate noise from neighbors we like, than those we don’t.
How can we design for ACOUSTIC COMFORT?
Considering the types of noise and architecture
Noises can either be transmitted through the air or through the building fabric itself
(through the envelope), vertically (from floor to floor), or laterally (through internal
partitions). Acoustic comfort in a building is dependent on the acoustic characteristics of the
building fabric, as regards acoustic transmission and absorption.
When designing for acoustic comfort today, we must taking into account a variety of
external and architectural factors:
- The types of noise to be managed, from protecting the building’s users from incoming levels of noise, but also perhaps from polluting the environment with noise produced from the building, as well as managing the internal noise within the building.
- The spectrum of noise to be managed (low or high frequencies)
- The construction system and materials The building’s activity : sleeping, working,teaching or healthcare
Exterior noise from nearby traffic
such as footsteps
from appliances, ventilation systems or electronic equipment
MULTI COMFORT design buildings to protect you from noise – coming from outside or inside – (mean you can make noise without disturbing others), help you enjoy an improved level of ambient noise and control noise reverberation and increase speech intelligibility making sound places to work and learn.
Products and solutions for ACOUSTIC COMFORT
Saint-Gobain offers several product categories that have a direct impact on ACOUSTIC COMFORT:
- Plasterboards, insulation, wall rendering which specially when used as a system provides excellent protection against airborn or impact noise for wall, floors and ceilings
- Acoustic ceilings and wall panels and interior lining improving room acoustics
- Materials and solutions reducing noise of mechanical ventilation and sewage pipes
- Sound insulating glazing (glass in windows and facades)
Examine the evidence of ACOUSTIC COMFORT
“A study in 2005 found that 99% of people surveyed reported that their concentration was impaired by office noise such as unanswered phones and background speech."Source: Banbury SP and Berry DC (2005) Office noise and employee concentration: identifying causes of disruption and potential improvements. Ergonomics 48:1, pp 25-37.
"Noise has been found to adversely impact reading and writing, and research suggests that chronic exposure to noise may impact children’s cognitive development."Source: Klatte, M., Bergstrom, K. & Lachmann, T. (2013). Does Noise Affect Learning? A Short Review on Noise Effects on Cognitive Performance in Children. Frontiers in Psychology. August 2013, Volume 4, article 578.
“One reason might be that efficiency involves more general factors that perhaps have a less immediate impact than distraction and stress. It can take longer to realise that your general productivity has been affected by a deterioration in the acoustic environment,” explains Aram SeddighSource: http://www.ecophon.com/en/about-ecophon/newsroom/unique-new-study-better-acoustic-environment-equals-better-decision-making/
“Not only is noise a clear distraction that hinders office workers carrying out their work accurately and efficiently, it can also have a detrimental impact on health and levels of stress.”Source: Shepherd D, Welch D, Dirks KN, and McBride D (2013) Do Quiet Areas Afford Greater Health-Related Quality of Life than Noisy Areas? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 10, pp 1284-1303.
"A poor sound environment increases the risk of lapses in communication, thus increasing the risk of errors and contributes to an unnecessarily high level of stress that wears on the staff."Source: http://www.acousticbulletin.com/yes-we-can-make-hospital-sound-better