With the growing body of research showing how buildings generally, and acoustics specifically, contribute to the health and well-being of occupants, rating systems like LEED and WELL have included language to focus on acoustics.
“There’s been a move in recent years to create sensible, best-practice background sound levels,” says Pollock.
LEED for Schools, in fact, includes a prerequisite for minimum acoustical performance, which specifies maximum noise levels in classrooms from HVAC and exterior noise, and includes requirements for sound-absorptive finishes.
LEED for Building Design and Construction includes a credit for acoustic performance. This credit contains various standards, including HVAC sound levels, minimum composite sound transmission class ratings for various types of spaces, and reverberation time requirements. The LEED for Operations and Maintenance rating system doesn’t contain specific credits or prerequisites for acoustics, but does require users to include acoustics in occupant satisfaction surveys.
The WELL Building Standard includes several credits specifying acoustical performance, some of which refer to LEED standards for acoustics.
Many of the studies regarding acoustics quantify the negative effects — that is, how a building’s lack of sound control is detrimental to occupant performance. As well, various studies show how frequently office workers are interrupted — sometimes as often as every 11 minutes — and how long it takes them to re-focus on a task — as long as 20 minutes for each interruption. So for facility managers seeking a financial justification for investments in acoustics, the task is spinning a negative to a positive and showing how productivity and occupant satisfaction can be improved by getting acoustics right.
In addition to citing studies, it’s imperative that facility managers conduct occupant satisfaction surveys and assign a value to a poor acoustics score. Not only that, but facility managers must assign dollar amounts to complaints — how much does it cost each time facility staff has to deal with an occupant complaint about acoustics?
“The most useful data is about complaints and occupant feedback,” says Pollock. “Will the FM team spend less time responding and administrating communication?”
Pollock says absenteeism is another metric facility managers can use to justify acoustics, though of course this shouldn’t be the only one, as lots of factors influence absenteeism rate.
What matters most, says Pollock, is creating a space that minimizes distractions and gives people the best chance to be happy, productive, and to succeed.
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