What are the risks of poor acoustical building design?
The risks of poor acoustical building design
Depending on the type of structure, the potential complications from poor acoustical design can vary greatly. Let’s take a look at the range of possible negative consequences that noise can produce in different built environments.
In healthcare settings, noises can range from irritating to harmful for patients and caregivers.
- Sudden noises can set off startle reflexes, leading to injury, increased blood pressure and higher respiratory rates
- Prolonged noise can contribute to memory problems, irritation, impaired pain tolerance and perceptions of isolation
- Reduced noise levels in intensive care units have been found to promote better sleep and healing
- Noise at all hours can lead to sleep deprivation which has been tied to longer recovery, falls, dementia, higher re-hospitalization and worse medical outcomes.
- Healthcare professionals can usually perform important tasks in high-stress situations, including high levels of noise; however, it may require greater energy to do so, contributing to fatigue.
- The need to protect patient confidentiality is critical, so speech privacy – the ability to hold discrete conversations without being heard by unintended listeners – is essential.
- Speech intelligibility is a very real risk in healthcare environments when noise is uncontrolled. Patient care teams require the ability to quickly and accurately understand and respond to auditory signals, be they care directives, equipment alarms, etc.
In an office or educational environment, the acoustical design can severely limit productivity and inhibit privacy when not properly considered.
Open design concepts in the workplace are on the rise for quite some time, in part because they promote greater cooperation and collaboration among colleagues, decrease response times to requests, and enhance necessary communication. However, these types of environments may lead to louder working environments and frequent distractions, as there are fewer surfaces to absorb the noise from coworker conversations, mechanical systems, and other background sounds. Similar design trends are occurring in educational buildings.
The shift to open-concept spaces that allow for more natural light and warmth by incorporating glass walls, high ceilings and low partitions, can also contribute to increased distraction and lower productivity. Privacy can be non-existent in these designs, though in fairness, traditional floor plans with closed-door offices and classrooms often don’t include an adequate acoustical design and therefore provide a false sense of privacy. Specific short-term health problems related to poor acoustics include increased stress, anxiety, and higher heart and respiration rates, and muscle tension.
The bottom line is that now, more than ever, creating an optimal acoustics experience in any kind of building is as important as the look, feel and function of the space to ensure the health and well-being of occupants.
For all of your soundproofing needs, contact Acoustica Projects.