7 Ways to Enhance Architectural Acoustics

Soundproofing insulation for office buildings


01/13/2020

7 Ways to Enhance Architectural Acoustics

Improving sound quality and architectural acoustics can positively impact employee productivity in office settings and increase the living quality of residential structures. Thus, acoustical design is no longer a luxury afforded to high-end projects. It is a necessity that has far-reaching impacts on projects of all sizes and types.

Acoustic control should be considered early in the project planning and design process. The desired acoustics for a space will dictate which building materials should be used, and where. Specifically, when designing for a project that requires a quieter, more sound-absorbent atmosphere, acoustic insulation will play a crucial role.

Read on to learn more about common architectural acoustic challenges architects must overcome, followed up by seven strategic ways to use insulation for sound control.
 

Common Challenges in Architectural Acoustics

Sound is the movement of energy. It is created when objects vibrate, affecting and vibrating the air around them to produce the audible noises the human ear eventually receives. When it comes to architectural acoustics, knowing how to direct or abate this movement of energy to align with the purpose of a space is a critical task.
 
Complicating the matter, features of a room affect how sound vibrations travel throughout the space and affect the people using it. Because there are so many variables that can affect how sound travels in a space, there are numerous challenges to take into consideration—and attempt to address—when designing for a project.
 

Open Concept Spaces

More and more businesses are turning to open concept spaces to foster team collaboration and unity. Unfortunately, in these open spaces there is nothing to block or absorb airborne noise. Thus, the commotion from employees talking, phones ringing and hallway traffic can make for a disruptive environment if not managed properly.
 

Environmental Noise

It is important to not underestimate the effect of environmental noise on the acoustics of a building. Things such as vehicle traffic, pedestrian traffic and other noises on the exterior of the building can also impact the level of noise and the quality of acoustics in a building.
 

Poor Room Adjacencies

When planning for sound control insulation, it is important to consider the sound profile of adjoining rooms. Consider for an example a conference room placed next to a break room. One would need to ensure utmost privacy for the conference room and take additional steps to prevent outside noise from being transmitted into the room.
 

Mechanical Equipment Placement

Mechanical equipment such as HVAC units are essential for the overall comfort of the office environment. Unfortunately, often these units can transmit noise throughout the building. Equipment location, mounting and duct insertion loss should all be considered when analyzing the selected system.
 

7 Ways to Use Acoustic Insulation to Enhance Architectural Acoustics

Using sound blocking or absorptive insulation is just one of many techniques to improve acoustics in a building. Additional techniques include masking the sound and isolating the sound. Many of these techniques are effective as individual solutions, but for best results, consider using more than one of the following suggestions.
 
  1. Noise Control in Wall Partitions

    Wall partitions separate spaces within a building. The most common way to enhance noise control in wall partitions is to add mass and insulation. The additional mass and insulation each add resistance for the sound waves to pass through. Options to increase mass include adding additional layers of gypsum board to the assembly. In addition to adding mass is important to fill the wall cavity with a sound absorptive insulation such as fiberglass or mineral wool. To reduce the maximum amount of sound transmission both mass and insulation are required. Isolation of the partition components through the use of resilient channels and furring are also effective at reducing “acoustic shorts”. Proper perimeter wall sealing and door gasketing must accompany any Sound Transmission Class rated assembly to insure performance.
     

  2. Sound Absorptive Insulation for Suspended Ceiling Systems

    Sound improvements can be made in ceiling systems by adding ceiling panels made of composite materials usually composed of mineral fiber or glass fiber. The NRC performance ratings for cast mineral fiber panels ranges from 0.65 to 0.95. The NRC ratings for dry-felted glass fiber panels range from 0.95 to 1.0.
     
  3. Reduce Sound Transmission with Sound Batt Insulation

    Sound can bend and flow around objects or “leak” through tiny spaces. Hand stuffed fiberglass insulation (and sealants where applicable) can greatly reduce un-wanted sound transmission through these voids. Filling empty cavities can also help to improve the Sound Transmission Class rating.
     
  4. Absorb Reflected Sounds with Acoustic Insulation

    Walls, ceilings, floors and furnishings can reflect airborne sound like voices and music; they can also transmit impact sounds such as footsteps on a floor. The unwanted reverberation of sound occurs when the air borne vibrations strike an acoustically reflective surface of another medium, like a wall, ceiling or floor and bounces the sound back into the room.

     

    Using acoustic insulation helps absorb sound as opposed to reflecting it back into the room. A portion of the absorbed sound is converted into heat and a portion of it is absorbed into the insulation


     
  5. Acoustic Insulation Boards

    An easy and less invasive technique for controlling sound is through the application acoustic panels in the finished space. The panels consist of fiberglass or other sound absorbing material covered by fabric. The panels are then attached to the walls or ceilings or hung to help control sound. In general, the more square feet of absorptive material exposed in the space the better the reduction of the reverberated noise.

     

    An example is a gym with hard surfaces. Hard surfaces cause reverberation even after the source of the sound has ceased. Too much reverberation results in echo. Adding panels into a gym can help prevent reverberation from occurring by diffusing the sound.

  6. Reduce HVAC Noise with Acoustical Board

    Noise pollution occurs from a variety of places, but a common cause are HVAC systems. Whether it’s duct transmission noise (insertion loss), or the mechanical equipment itself, the sound and resulting vibration can disrupt office and home environments. Ductwork and open plenums are very often undesirable “speaking tubes” from space to space.

     

    Designing and installing fiberglass black acoustical wall and ceiling liners and acoustical boards is one of the most effective ways to reduce noise in buildings with exposed structure finished spaces and in plenums. It can be detailed as to not detract from the architectural design and can be integrated in most conditions with being visible.  It is also one of the least expensive.
     

  7. Use Concave or Convex Insulation to Enhance Acoustics 

    The shape of a room and its corresponding insulation can greatly affect the way sound moves. Concave shapes tend to bring sound to one focal point, while convex shapes diffuse sound in multiple directions. Depending on the needs of a particular space, these shapes may or may not be beneficial.
     

Final Thoughts

Using acoustic insulation can greatly improve the sound quality in a building. Insulation combined with isolation and sound masking techniques can minimize unwanted noise and make for a more enjoyable environment. Knauf Insulation products, offer superior acoustical performance for both commercial and residential applications.