Controlling Noise and Vibration in Building Design

Building designers endeavor to create structures and spaces that are visually pleasing, comfortable, functional, and efficient. In order for that space to properly serve its purpose, it must not present unwanted distractions or obstacles. Two such obstacles are noise and vibration, and it is essential that expert input from noise and vibration consultants be included in the design and drafting of the building’s plans.

If during the course of a building’s use, occupants wish to make adjustments to the lighting or thermostats, those adjustments are easily made. However with a few exceptions, a building’s acoustical properties are not normally adjustable. They are a permanent and fixed component of that building, and the occupants are expected to use the space with its acoustical properties as they were designed…if in fact there was an acoustical design at all. If the occupants find it difficult to understand spoken word communication in a meeting area, if the constant throbbing of an HVAC system invades every customer interaction, or if excessive traffic sounds from the street are leaking into an office, the acoustic design of the building is a failure.

Internally generated structure-borne noise and vibration, caused by the building’s own air handling, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems, are examples of design problems that must be overcome. This includes subsonic vibration – below human hearing range but nonetheless invasive. These issues are easily solved with expert acoustic consultation which can provide specific recommendations for specialized building materials as well as methods of physically isolating noisy or vibrating components within the building.

Noise and vibration from outdoors, such as street activity or overhead air traffic, can also be mitigated with acoustically correct design elements. Unwanted reverberation in enclosed areas can emphasize noise created by the occupants themselves, but can be altered and minimized as needed with appropriate design elements and use of specific materials.

Noise and vibration consultants must be included in a building’s design right from the earliest iterations of the plans. Vibration measurement services can prevent design mistakes from happening even before the first drafts are produced, and vibration modeling services can provide a demonstration of the exact acoustical environment that will result from these plans long before the building is completed.

All too often, acoustical expertise is overlooked or eliminated from building design as a cost-cutting measure, only to require the services of noise and vibration consultants after construction has been completed. It ends up costing more, taking more time, and sometimes requiring the shutting down of normal business operations as the problems are corrected. Addressing these issues during the design phase, is the correct way forward. Contact Valcoustics to learn more about how we can enhance your design process.