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BASIC ACOUSTICS FOR CONFERENCE ROOMS WITH AUDIO VISUAL

TECHNOLOGY

First, it must be understood that acoustics is a complex science that cannot be
summarized in a few paragraphs or a few pages. Entire textbooks and college engineering
courses are dedicated to the science of acoustics, so the information below should be
considered as very general guidelines to providing a Conference Room that is functional and
appealing from an acoustical perspective.
Attention to acoustics in a Conference Room is extremely important in providing a
meeting space that is functional. Important areas to consider are STC ratings of materials used
in the construction of the room, the HVAC system, absorption of sound generated within the
room and the NC rating.

STC RATINGS

It is important that sound generated from outside the Conference Room not be
transmitted into the room. External sounds can come from any direction, so floors, walls and
ceilings all play a major role in isolating the room from sound disturbances. Generally speaking,
the higher the Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of a surface, the better that surface is for
isolating external sounds. An STC rating of 55 or greater is desirable in construction of surfaces
within a Conference Room.
An important consideration in regards to STC ratings is that the rating does not take into
account frequencies below 125 Hz. Mechanical systems, street noises and other audio systems
in adjoining spaces often generate sound at frequencies below 125 Hz. Care must be taken in
the design of Conference Rooms to reduce the transmission of these lower frequencies through
walls and other surfaces.
Keep in mind the following basic rules for reducing sound transmission through
surfaces:
1. A wall should extend to the structural deck above; otherwise, sound will easily
migrate from outside the room.
2. Metal studs arranged in a dual stud or staggered arrangement offer better isolation
than wood studs.
3. Insulation in walls and floor and ceiling spaces improve sound isolation from
external sources.
4. Sound will find its way into a meeting space via the weakest structural elements,
which are typically door, windows and electrical outlets.
5. Increasing the air space between a wall or window structure will improve sound
isolation.
6. If the mass of a surface is doubled, the isolation increases by approximately 5 dB.






HVAC SYSTEMS

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are often a source of undesirable
sound in a Conference Room. A designer should pay attention to a few basic rules:
1. Mechanical equipment, VAV boxes and fancoil units should not be located above,
below or adjacent to a Conference Room.
2. Use air handlers with low soundlevel ratings.
3. Size air ducts large enough to permit low air velocities. Diffusers should have a NC
rating of 25 or less.
4. Use soundabsorbing duct liner. This will reduce the inside area of the duct, so
upsize the duct accordingly to compensate.

SOUND ABSORPTION

Hard surfaces within a room provide a reflective surface that can be detrimental to
clearly hearing and understanding audio sources being introduced into the room. Therefore, it
is advantageous to use acoustical absorbing materials on all surfaces to reduce the severity of
reflections. For floors, carpet is preferred over concrete, tile or wood. Standard gyp drywall is
typically adequate for wall surfaces. If there are windows or glass walls, then curtains or shades
can be used to cover the reflective glass. Acoustical ceiling tiles provide good absorption for
ceilings. Acoustical ceiling tiles should preferably have a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) of .9
or greater.
Keep in mind that furniture can introduce reflections from smooth surfaces, such as
tabletops, credenzas, etc. Wood tabletops will provide a less reflective surface than glass or
marble.
Less sound reflections in a room make the room sound more dead, whereas more
reflections can give a room a live sound. While it is impractical to eliminate all sound
reflections in a Conference Room, efforts should be made to keep reflective surfaces to a
minimum, as this will aid in speech intelligibility for all participants in the room, as well as, any
participants in an audio or video conference.

NC RATING

Noise Criteria (NC) is a basic measurement of how quiet the room is with the HVAC system
operating and no participants in the room. All of the considerations mentioned above work
together to affect the NC rating of a room. An NC rating of 35 dBa or less is ideal for a
Conference Room. Higher levels will begin to work against speech intelligibility. It is important
to note that audiovisual electronic equipment installed in the room can have a major affect on
the NC rating. Projectors in the room can sometimes introduce fan noise that raises the NC
rating several dB, as do cooling fans on other electronic gear that might be installed in the
room.


SUMMARY

A properly designed Conference Room will take into account factors that can
detrimentally affect acoustic properties. By designing surfaces and barriers that have higher STC
ratings, by installing sound absorbing materials on walls, floors and ceilings and by paying
careful attention to locating HVAC and other mechanical systems, a designer can achieve a
room design that provides an acoustically pleasant environment.