How a Green Building Techniques Sabotage Your Acoustic Environment


Last week we discussed the acoustical problems associated with modern design trends. These design trends included: dematerialization, green building techniques and exposed systems. This week we will focus on environmentally conscious buildings and how they can impact your acoustic environment.

Today, designers are more inclined to incorporate green initiatives into their renovation projects. Being environmentally conscious is no longer a forward-thinking fad, contractors and designers are now being rewarded for utilizing sustainable building techniques. For example, LEED Certification (or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) aims to reward buildings for reducing emission, water use, waste and indoor pollutants by offering builders tax breaks and other incentives.

These incentives have influenced the way spaces are constructed today. Some green buildings feature large spanning windows and glass walls to better utilize natural energy. Glass walls allow natural light to illuminate buildings which reduces the need for electrical lighting. In addition to large windows, open concept floor plans have increased in popularity because of how efficiently they utilize natural and mechanical energy. Open floor plans lack walls and partitions, so less energy is required to distribute artificial light and mechanical air throughout a space.

Both large windows and open floor plans are beneficial for the environment but together they can have adverse affects on your acoustic environment. The glass walls create a reflective echo that can make speech difficult to comprehend; while the open office concept allows unnecessary noise to travel with ease, prohibiting worker concentration. According to the January 2012 white paper Sound Matters Study by the General Services Administration (GSA), these acoustical problems have caused the greatest amount of dissatisfaction amongst occupants in newly remodeled buildings.

In order to create an environment that is both sustainable and functional, LEED has recently added an acoustic quality stipulation into the IEQ (Indoor Environment Quality) section of its certification program. LEED will now reward buildings for providing occupants with an environment that is conducive to speech intelligibility and speech privacy and minimizes distractions and annoyances.

Designers are now using eco-friendly sound absorption materials to create a comfortable and green acoustic environment. Quality acoustics and being green are not incompatible, they are intertwined and it is possible to find a solution that can satisfy both. A green building does not just satisfy one goal in spite of another, it is about compromise across all systems. We try to make that compromise easy by providing acoustic products that are made entirely from recycled materials. Check out our discussion next week about exposed systems and how they can influence the sound in your room.


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