Acoustics can seem like a mystifying challenge in the already-complicated design process. According to acoustician Zackery Belanger, that doesn't have to be the case. Here are five mistakes to avoid, that Belanger sees architects and interior designers frequently make in the design process.

1) Not using space planning to their acoustic advantage

Acoustics is about way more than the products labeled "acoustic", and very few decisions in the design process will not influence the acoustics of a building. Considering the acoustic implications of early design decisions can save money and reduce headaches later in the process. For example, acoustically loud and acoustically sensitive spaces can be arranged apart from each other, circulation spaces such as hallways can act as buffers to sound, plumbing walls can be located adjacent to non-sensitive spaces, and the shape and materials of a space can be developed from the start to be acoustically beneficial.

Acoustics Done Right:


The spatial relationships between different spaces are an important part of good acoustic design.

2) Confusing sound transfer and background noise with reverberation control

There are many excellent products available to control reverberation, but none of those products are designed to block sound or reduce the noise generated by mechanical systems. Recognizing which acoustic problem you're trying to solve, and using the appropriate approach, is critical. An extra layer of gypsum board, a good sealant, and door gaskets go a long way toward blocking sound, and loud HVAC systems often need to be located in separate, non-critical spaces - both decisions which are difficult to accomplish beyond a certain stage in design.

Acoustics Done Right:


When sound transfer and reverberation are concerns, full wall systems and sound absorbing fixtures are both used.

3) Trying to hide acoustic surfaces

The sound of a room results from the sum influence of all the surfaces and objects in that room, so in order to change the way a room sounds, the material character of the room as a whole usually needs to be changed by a significant amount. It can be difficult to impossible to hide such a change, and attempting to do so will often lead to substandard performance and an undesirable visual result. In recent years, the manufacturers of acoustic products have embraced a more visual approach, so designers can now choose acoustic surfaces that contribute to the look of a space, rather than trying to make them disappear.

Acoustics Done Right:


Controlling reverberation requires a lot of surface area, so visually striking solutions are a good alternative to hidden ones.

4) Not leveraging the non-acoustic

Most objects and non-flat surfaces are acoustically beneficial, so a great approach to acoustics involves leveraging these elements as part of a holistic approach to sound. A wall of books, thick carpet, and even sculptural walls and surfaces can do some of the work acoustically. This is how acoustic lighting developed - light fixtures were already providing mild acoustic benefits, so manufacturers like LightArt explored and developed this path with acoustic intent.

Acoustics Done Right:

Shipping logistics

Elements that help with reverberation control can be combined, as in this image with exposed brick, soft furniture, plants, and two types of acoustic lighting.

5) Avoiding the question of acoustics and hoping for the best

Considering acoustics throughout the design process can lead to exceptional spaces, without the worry about what sound will result. Acoustics remains a rich and somewhat mysterious field, but there's a lot we know, and the best designs take advantage of that knowledge. Architects and interior designers should be courageous in considering sound at all stages, and their clients will be happier for it.

Acoustics Done Right:

Budd lake trade center

By considering acoustics at all stages in the design process, visually-integrated solutions are possible.

Be sure to check out the Acoustic Collection for products that can help solve lighting and acoustical needs in one easy package.

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