How a building looks is important, but how a building makes you feel when you’re spending time inside it is even more so – especially considering that we spend 90 percent of our time indoors. Designing and building for human health and well-being is growing in significance across all space types, from schools and offices to medical facilities. Acoustic comfort, key metrics such as the noise reduction coefficient (commonly abbreviated to NRC), and relevant building standards and guidelines are all critical components of facility design for designers, building owners and product manufacturers alike.
Older buildings often lack acoustic consideration
Recent analysis of data from the Center for the Built Environment’s Occupant Survey, which included over 90,000 respondents from approximately 900 buildings over a 20-year span, revealed a serious issue with acoustics. Although more than two-thirds of the respondents were satisfied with their buildings overall, the majority were dissatisfied with these same buildings’ acoustic performance. In fact, of all the metrics surveyed, dissatisfaction was highest with sound privacy (54 percent dissatisfied), temperature (39 percent), and noise level (34 percent). A vast difference exists between our current goals for human health and wellbeing and how many buildings were designed acoustically in the past.
“As always, noise is a top concern amongst those that have been surveyed. It is the main source of workplace dissatisfaction,” says Ethan Bourdeau, Sound Concept Lead for the Standard Development team at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). “According to the Leesman Index, 75 percent of employees feel that better acoustics are an important quality in an effective workplace, however only 30 percent of employees were satisfied with noise levels in their workplace.”
Of course, not everyone works in an office. A workplace can also be a school or medical care facility.
“In poor acoustic environments, patient rehospitalisation rates are higher,” adds Dr. Jo Solet, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Division of Sleep Medicine. “Noise can disrupt patient sleep and impair communication leading to medical errors. Acoustics impact clinical outcomes.”