Saturday, 21 June 2014


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While designing a building, the one aspect that is mostly overlooked is that of Noise control.Noise is injurious both physically and mentally to all human beings. It will be felt in the long run, after having caused irreparable damage. Hence it is vital to bring down the sound levels during construction stages and later too.

The buildings scenario in the country is rapidly changing.The main reason is the proliferation and fast phase of the construction work.All the major cities are witnessing continuous makeover, but this need not be the reason for ignoring certain basic and simple guidelines.Buildings must be in harmony with the five natural elements like earth, fire, water, air and ether and also with the five senses of humankind like sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The built environment must be a stress-buster and not a stress-spreader.

Spaces for all varieties of occupation like for entertainment, retail, offices and residences are well planned and designed for visual aesthetics, life safety, comfort and other important aspects, but no attention is paid for acoustics and noise control. The second sense of humans, hearing, which follows that of the visual being the first in order of importance is greatly ignored.

Sound is a very essential element.When the Television is watched in mute mode, all the sensations and melodrama is vanished. But the same sound if excessive, becoming a rough quality of noise, the sense of hearing is not in harmony with the other senses of human beings.This aggravates stress.

Acoustical Problems
In Residences,the distressing and persisting hum of the water pump in the basement amplified through the elevator shaft, the low-flying aircraft rattling windows, flush noise punctuating studies and meditation,the traffic noise piercing through the balcony, the sounds of dialogues and music from the television echoing in the hall are some of the common experiences of disturbing sounds in the residences.

In Office Campuses,In the offices where people spend half of their lives, the jarring hardships they have to endure are many.The central court entrance hall, reverberating with disagreeable combination of loud noises of street noise and visitor voices, the canteen filled with and spilling out the continuous sound of techno-babble, the roof top chiller unit transmitting down the painful vibrations, the recently completed road connection or flyover sending in noise from speeding vehicles even into the hitherto quiet conference room and the unavoidable voice-based call-centres all add to the discomfort of the auditory sense.

Other built spaces,Most of the sound emanating from the general and common sources are unavoidable.The beating and thumping from the disco clubs where people dance to the recorded pop music disturbing the room guests in fashionable and flamboyant star Hotels, the modern elevated light transit railway bringing in the clatter to a studio, noise transfer between the adjacent halls of a multiplex, an action movie with special sound – effects spoiling a peaceful romantic moment or missing out an important announcement in public spaces are some of the resultant problems from noise transference and noise magnification.

Ignoring  Acoustics
Normally most of the architects and civil consultants the prime movers of the design community, place emphasis on the visual and other comforts but often tend to ignore acoustics.Attention is turned towards it only when it becomes a major problem post - occupancy. Very few projects requisition the services of acoustic experts to be on board at the design stage.Most are in the misguided notion that an acoustic expert is required only for special venues like cinemas, auditoria and studios.This is an erroneous view.To understand enjoy and realize the true potential of any built space, the second sense of mankind ie., the hearing must be given its due importance.

To give a similarity, while India had adopted Euro III norms for smoke emission from vehicles, when most of the developed world is on Euro V in acoustics and noise control we were still at Euro I, what the developed world was doing 20 years back. As India's GDP inexorably rises and we fancy ourselves as an economic powerhouse, as we get used to the latest models of laptops, mobile phones, automobiles and home appliances similar to Euro V, we must rapidly upgrade the quality of sound around us to at-least Euro III if not Euro V. This is certainly possible if more emphasis is given to acoustics and noise control in built spaces.

Incorporating proper and simple acoustical techniques at the design stage can yield rich dividends.Some of the design techniques that can improve the acoustical experiences of built spaces are enumerated below. The water pump is installed on anti-vibration pads but it is not made sure whether the pipe fittings are rigidly connected to the building structure.If not they will be transferring the pump vibrations.The best answer to this is Resilient pipe mounts.

For low-flying aircraft, it is imperative for the public to lobby for altered flight paths or shifting of airports beyond the outskirts of cities.Most of Asian Capitals like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hongkong, Seoul have done it same could be followed in the case of Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore & Hyderabad.

But this is a Herculean task. Till then acoustical gaskets could be provided to the perimeter of thicker glass panes as they are fitted in metal / wooden frames. In addition, acoustical gaskets could be provided to the perimeter of the wall frames that receive the window and door shutters.For avoiding traffic noise the simplest solution for lower floors is to make the boundary of the premises a noise – isolant one.For the upper floors it is best to make the ceiling of the balconies as sound absorbing as possible.

The atrium and the Cafeteria in office campuses will need less of polished surfaces and parallel surfaces. Glazing may be innovatively angled to diffuse the sound waves. Textured paint and glass cloth finishes can help marginally. For tougher cases, modular acoustical panels may be placed strategically. The rooftop chiller units are usually mounted on resilient mounts but it should be seen that the pipelines are also acoustically supported on the building structure.Along with that acoustical louvers might be necessary on the perimeter, as an enclosure, to avoid noise from traveling to the adjacent apartment blocks.

The air conditioning duct layout inside offices should cut the noise at source, the AHU room and attenuators strategically placed at room boundaries. Wall partitions too must go right up to the true roof and not terminate at the false ceiling level.Though that is not the case at call-centres,the partial-height barriers at workstations need to be noise - rated.The height of minimum 600 mm is necessary, otherwise even the best of noise rated barriers will fail.

The most difficult to control are low frequency sound waves. They are offered in maximum doses at discotheques, pubs and night clubs.They possess large wavelengths and need massive surfaces to control them.Hence it is indispensable to have structural discontinuity of the surfaces.The transport noise can be cut down with noise-rated window and doors on the affected surfaces and air-conditioning of the space. Most of the public spaces in the country have deficiency in public address system. Speech intelligibility is very poor.Objective testing for speech intelligibility to current International Standards is the best way to ensure systems integrators install it right.

Endless is the list of acoustics problems and their solutions. Everyone should bear in mind and be aware of the fact that acoustics is a science that can be easily and inexpensively added to any project.Also it is to be accepted that acoustical solutions can be innovatively simple and need not involve elaborate treatment.

A significant observation will be illustrative of this fact.The design community tends to confuse sound absorption and noise isolation. A porous material to absorb sound is required. Quite conversely, a porous material does not block noise.Hence to isolate noise, mass or heavy material that is stiff but dampened is needed. The two are different and usually one material cannot do both unless it is specifically engineered for the purpose.

For effective noise isolation the operation of mere “double-glazing” in windows won't do. The important aspect is to see the windows being properly noise - rated and installed. Like that the mere word “acoustic - lining” in AC ducts does not guarantee HVAC noise control unless the system is professionally designed and installed.The wrong specs can also lead to deterioration in indoor Air quality [IAQ] causing sick building syndrome.

The mere word “double wall” does not guarantee acoustic privacy since the walls may be rigidly coupled to the structural column. Split columns and expansion joints might be the answer.The acoustics companies resort to all types of glib talk, listening to which designers are attracted at the initial stage and are then disappointed when results are less than satisfactory. Architects could very well go back to the module on acoustics taught in architectural and civil courses or call in an acoustics expert.

The excellent advantages should be given to space occupants not only in floor finishes, furniture and window, doors but in acoustic terms too. Builders should deliver sounds caped complex. Premium consumers are willing to pay the additional costs incurred since they aspire and long for a world-class experience.

Each and every one of the citizens of the country must inculcate in them the habit of making less noise.It might be honking less on the streets.We are witnessing on the roads drivers honking when the traffic lights just turn green. Everybody will automatically move ahead at least after a few seconds delay. That momentary impatience leading to unnecessary honking should be controlled. The door may be closed gently behind us. One can lower the voice while speaking on their cell phones which are conspicuous everywhere.

The builders, if they deliver acoustically–enhanced and pleasant spaces gradually the Earth could turn into a quieter, better place to line, work and enjoy.


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