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The application of acoustics in building design falls under the category of
Architectural acoustics. Architectural acoustics may be defined as the technology of
designing spaces, structures, and mechanical equipment to meet hearing needs. It is
the science of noise control within buildings. The first application of architectural
acoustics was in the design of opera houses, theatres and then concert halls. The aim
of applying Acoustics in such structures is to ensure speech intelligibility and impart
fullness to a performance. More widely, noise suppression is critical in the design of
multi-unit dwellings and business premises that generate significant noise. In order to
create a desired acoustical performance within a specific building is complex, and
thus, a design criterion is needed. Aspects of architectural design have developed to
accommodate for the changing purposes for these structures; as technology and our
knowledge of acoustics expand, architects and physicists continue to modify the
designs for concert halls and theatres to achieve the optimum acoustic experience for
today’s audience. Acoustical services that architects may be involved with can be
categorized into one or more of the following groups:
• Product and materials testing, measurement, and reporting
• Control of noise related to transportation systems
• Control of noise from building systems
• Environmental noise control within and near buildings
• Vibration and seismic control
• Electronic reinforcement and enhancement of sound
The acoustical environment in and around buildings is influenced by numerous
interrelated and interdependent factors associated with the building planning design-
construction process. From the very outset of any building development, the selection
of the site, the location of buildings on the site, and even the arrangement of spaces
within the building can, and often do, influence the extent of the acoustical problems
involved. The materials and construction elements that shape the finished spaces
determine how sounds will be perceived in that space, as well as how they will be
transmitted to adjacent spaces. Acoustics have impact on the design of structures or
buildings ranging from a small sized studio room to gigantic arenas or concert halls
and also affects their functioning. Thus the need for special attention to acoustics is
obvious in a concert auditorium or radio studio building. Building codes and

standards require attention to the acoustical aspects of building design. In addition to
these, many problems are involved in the ordinary spaces where people work and live.
Some of the greatest sounding halls date from the late 19th century when builders had
virtually no practical scientific knowledge of acoustical principles. Thus a standard of
excellence in design of concert halls were set up during that period. Vienna’s Grosser
Musikvereinssall (built in 1870), Leipzig’s Gewandhaus (1885), the Concertgebouw
in Amsterdam (1895) and Symphony Hall in Boston (1900), are some of the finest
among them. These designs received an engineering treatment only until Wallace
Clement Sabine of Harvard University came up with a theoretical approach to it. He is
considered as a pioneer in Architectural Acoustics. In the design of buildings meant
for ordinary activities, such as an office building, noise is a major problem to be dealt
with. Noise control is an active or passive means of reducing sound emissions, often
incentivised by personal comfort, environmental considerations or legal compliance.
Practical and efficient noise control is wholly reliant on an accurate diagnosis of what
is causing the noise, which first involves finding the source of noise. Once the source
of noise has been found, the focus is reducing the noise at source by engineering

Every building acoustics consideration can be thought of as a system of
sources, paths, and receivers of sound. Sound is generated whenever there is a
disturbance of an elastic medium. Technically speaking, sound is defined as a
vibration in an elastic medium. An elastic medium is any material (air, water, physical
object, etc.) that has the ability to return to its normal state after being deflected by an
outside force such as a sound vibration. The more elastic a substance, the better it is
able to conduct sound waves. Lead, for instance, is very inelastic and therefore a poor
sound conductor. Steel, on the other hand, is highly elastic and an excellent sound
conductor. Naturally, the building design and technology have the most influence on
the transmission paths. However, understanding the source and receiver aspects of a
given situation may be essential to realize an effective overall resolution of the
problems caused by sounds within and around a building. Sound vibrations travel
through elastic mediums in the form of small pressure changes alternating above and
below the static (at rest) nature of the conducting material. Consider the case of a
tuning fork.

Figure 1 Tuning fork illustrates how a simple pure tone develops

Sound can be generated by striking a tuning fork. The arms of the tuning fork are
set into vibration and the air molecules immediately adjacent to the vibrating surface
are alternately compressed and rarefied as the surface goes through each complete to-
and-fro movement. This cyclical disturbance (compression and rarefaction of the air
molecules) is passed on to the adjacent molecules and thus travels outward from the
source. The outwardly progressing sound may be thought of as a “chain reaction” of
vibrations constantly being transferred to adjacent molecules. The originally disturbed
air molecules do not move away from the source, rather they vibrate within a limited
area, and transfer the energy to the adjacent molecules. Ultimately the sound wave
may reach a human ear, causing the eardrum to vibrate and, through a complex
mechanism, produces the sensation of hearing in that person’s brain.


2.1 Fundamentals of Sound

2.1.1 Frequency
The number of waves that occur per second is termed frequency. Frequency is
measured in terms of hertz (Hz). One Hz is equal to one cycle per second. The human
ear can discern sounds ranging from approximately 20 to 20,000 Hz. Human speech
ranges between 125 and 4,000 Hz. A tuning fork generates sound at just a single
frequency. A simple musical tone would have a fundamental tone along with one or
more harmonically related tones.

2.1.2 Frequency Bands
Measurements may be made over the entire range or, utilizing electronic filters
in the measurement system, the frequency range may be divided into segments such
as octave bands or 1/2-, 1/3-, 1/10 -octave bands. Octave bands generally yield
sufficient frequency information about a sound source. The whole frequency range is
divided into different set of frequencies called bands in order to ease the analysis of a
source, if the analysis is based on frequency.

2.1.3 Wavelength of sound
Wavelength is a fundamental property of sound related to the frequency of
sound. It is the distance within which the complete cycle of disturbance takes place.
The basic relationship between the velocity of sound in a medium (e.g., air or
concrete) and its frequency and wavelength is given by the expression:
c = f λ …..... (1)
c=velocity of sound, f =frequency, λ=wavelength

2.1.4 Magnitude of sound
The intensity or magnitude of acoustical energy contained in the sound wave
is an important aspect as far as acoustics is concerned. Sound level measurements can
be made by relating either the intensity (power/area) or pressure change (force/area)
of the sound to a set reference. Respectively, these are called the sound intensity level
(SIL) and the sound pressure level (SPL). Sound intensity is proportional to the
amplitude of the pressure disturbance above and below the undisturbed atmospheric
pressure. The amplitude of sound waves – how far they travel above and below the
static pressure of the elastic medium they are traveling through – is measured in
decibels (dB). It is a logarithm-based measurement unit.

Architectural acoustics is concerned with the management of airborne and
impact sounds that are transmitted and controlled within a building design. While
virtually every material within a room from furniture to floor coverings, wall
partitions, ceiling systems and floor/ceiling assemblies are the primary elements that
designers use to control sound. Sound can travel through wall partitions, ceilings, etc.
Sound waves travel at a rate of 344 meters per second through air, 3566 meters per
second through wood; and 5486 meters per second through steel. Sound reflection
occurs when sound waves bounce off from the surfaces it encounters. Sound
reverberation is the persistence of sound after the source declines. It can be
advantages as well as disadvantages. For example, specifying highly reflective ceiling
panels directly above the stage area in an auditorium will help direct sound toward
specific seating areas, thus enhancing the room’s acoustical performance. However,
that same reflective performance will become a negative factor if highly reflective
wall and ceiling materials are installed in the rear of the auditorium.
Figure 2 Diagrams showing the relative differences in sound behavior outdoors
(free field) vs. indoors (reverberant field)

Like light, sound can also diffract, or bend and flow around an object or through a
small space or opening. This allows sound waves to “squeeze” through very small
openings with little loss of energy. The small openings under and around doors, floor
tracks, electrical boxes and conduit and HVAC (High-voltage alternating current)
ducting are typical sources of sound diffraction. These are commonly referred to as
“flanking” or “leaking” paths. They can be controlled by the proper application of
acoustical sealant. The effect of sound varies with the nature of the area, i.e., indoors
or outdoors.
As discussed above, for the case of outdoor, the sound travels from the source,
through the elastic medium, and transfers the energy to further other air molecules.
Subsequently, a decay of sound level is observed, which decreases according to the
inverse square law that relates the amplitude (which represents the energy) and the
intensity. In addition, some further losses or gains may be present in real-life
situations, due to atmospheric effects, wind, temperature, ground foliage, and so forth.
However, these effects can usually be neglected for first-order approximation of
expected sound losses outdoors where distances are not very large.

In the case of Indoors, the sounds decay faster near the source and as it moves
outward, it gets reflected from the sound reflecting surfaces such as wall, partitions,
ceilings, etc. and they begin to overwhelm the actual sound from the original source.
Within the reflected or so-called reverberant sound field, the sound level remains
generally constant throughout the room no matter how far away from the source a
listener is located. If the room surfaces are basically hard and sound reflective
(plaster, concrete, glass, etc.), there will be very little loss of sound at each impact of
the sound wave on the room surfaces, and the built-up reflected sound level will be
relatively high. If soft, porous materials (rugs, draperies, acoustical tiles, etc.) are
placed on the room surfaces, there will be appreciable losses each time the reflected
sound waves encounter the room surfaces. Figure 3 shows the absorption coefficient
of porous and non-porous materials varying with frequency.

Figure 3 Absorption coefficients of porous and panel
absorbers as a function of frequency.
Accordingly, the built-up reflected sound levels will be lower. This is the principal
effect of placing sound absorbing materials on the surfaces of rooms (i.e., to lower the
sound level in the reverberant acoustic field dominated by reflected sound).
Ultimately, if completely efficient sound-absorbing materials are placed on all
boundary surfaces of a room, outdoor conditions would be approximated where only
the direct sound remains.

In architectural acoustics and environmental acoustics, noise control refers to
the set of practices employed for noise mitigation. Within architectural acoustics these
practices include: interior sound reverberation reduction, inter-room noise transfer
mitigation and exterior building skin augmentation. “More specific architectural noise
control methods include the installation of thicker and/ or double-glazed windows,”
acoustical gypsum, ceiling tiles, ceiling panels, carpet and draperies. The
effectiveness of an assembly’s ability to isolate airborne sound is quantified by Sound
Transmission Class (STC) ratings, in the US, and Sound Reduction Index (SRI)
elsewhere in the world. These ratings are based on established building standards and
codes. It quantifies the sound reducing capability of the material or construction, in
terms of the transmission loss.

4.1 Sound Transmission Loss
A primary goal of a wall partition, ceiling system and floor/ceiling assembly
design is to minimize the flow of airborne and impact sound through the use of
special materials, methods of construction and designs. A basic acoustical property of
a sound-isolating wall or floor/ceiling system is, then, its ability to resist being set into
vibration by impinging sound waves and thus to dissipate significant amounts of
sound energy. The heavier and more complex the construction, the greater will be
its ability to reduce sound transmission from one side to the other. The sound-
reducing capability of a construction is measured by its sound transmission loss (TL).
TL is a value given in decibels, which is determined by measuring sound pressure
levels at a given certain frequency in the source and receiving rooms. It is a
logarithmic ratio of the transmitted sound power to the sound power incident on the
source-room side of the construction. The calculation also factors in the area of the
partition shared by the two rooms, and adjusts for the receiving room's acoustic
"liveness" (known as "reverberation time"). The adjusted difference between the two
levels is the TL of the door.

A construction that transmits or lets through only small amounts of the incident
sound energy will have a high sound transmission loss. The higher the TL, the better
will be the result.

Figure 4 Average airborne sound transmission loss for
single homogeneous partitions

4.2 Sound Transmission Control (STC)
TL measurements for a door are taken across a range of frequencies, which makes
it difficult to compare the effectiveness of different doors. Sound transmission class
(STC) ratings solve that problem by giving a single value to acoustical performance.
It is an integer rating of how well a building partition attenuates airborne sound. In the
US, it is widely used to rate interior partitions, ceilings/floors, doors, windows and
exterior wall configurations. Outside the US, the Sound Reduction Index (SRI) ISO
standard is used. The STC rating figure very roughly reflects the decibel reduction in
noise that a partition can provide. The higher the STC value, the better the rating and
the better the performance, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1 Sound Transmission Control Table


50-60 Excellent Loud sounds heard faintly or not at all
40-50 Very Good Loud speech heard faintly but not
35-40 Good Loud speech heard but hardly
30-35 Fair Loud speech understood fairly well.
25-30 Poor Normal speech understood easily and
20-25 Very Poor Low speech audible

A wall partition or floor/ceiling assembly that reduces the overall incoming sound
levels from 80dBA to 20dBA would have an STC rating of approximately 60. STC
values are used to define the performance requirements for achieving a specified
reduction in sound transmission from a source room to a receiving room. The STC
rating of an installed door also determines how much noise reduction is possible
between a given source room and receiving room as shown in Figure 5.


4.3 Sound Reduction Index
The sound reduction index is used to measure the level of sound insulation
provided by a structure such as a wall, window, door, or ventilator. It is a scale used
worldwide, outside the US. The basic method for both the actual measurements and
the mathematical calculations behind both standards is similar; however they diverge
to a significant degree in the detail, and in the numerical results produced.
Standardized methods exist for measuring the sound insulation produced by various
structures in both laboratory and field (actual functional buildings and building sites)
environments. A number of indices are defined which each offer various benefits for
different situations.

4.4 Noise Reduction Coefficient
Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) is a scalar representation of the amount of
sound energy absorbed upon striking a particular surface. An NRC of 0 indicates
perfect reflection; an NRC of 1 indicates perfect absorption. It is an industry-wide
accepted method of describing the “average” sound absorption characteristics of an
acoustical material is the noise reduction coefficient (NRC). The NRC is the
arithmetic average of the measured sound absorption coefficients at 250-, 500-, 1000-,
and 2000-Hz test frequencies, rounded off to the nearest 0.05. The sound absorption
coefficient is a ratio of the incident sound to the reflected sound and may vary from
0 (no absorption, or perfect reflection) to 1 (complete absorption, or no reflection).

Figure 5 The effect of a High STC Partition
A perfect acoustic design in rooms or halls is characterised by a balance
between reverberation and time-delay. The combined effect of reverberation and time
delay after reflection, of sound, is responsible for the feeling of spatial fullness or
perception of an enhanced spatial quality of sound. The key acoustical
parameters/indices that are used to evaluate the acoustic capability of a closed space
are described below.

5.1 Impulse Response
The impulse response is the sound-pressure vs. time data measured after a perfect
impulse from a source. It graphically depicts the amplitude, arrival time, frequency
components, and direction of arrival of the direct sound and all subsequent reflections
from the room enclosure for a specific source-receiver path. The impulse response, as
shown in Figure 6, can help provide a conceptual understanding of the links between
perceived acoustical qualities and the architectural features of rooms. In a sound level
versus time diagram, an initial impulse will be followed by peaks and dips
corresponding to the time-varying energy density, with an overall decreasing
tendency. Such a diagram is often called a reflectogram or an echogram, since it
shows the arrival times of reflections and echoes. The diagram describes reverberation
the way it can be perceived after e.g. percussive instruments, consonants of speech,
playing a musical note, etc.

Figure 6 An Impulse Response plot (Between Time and Sound pressure level)

5.2 Reverberation Time (RT60)
Surface applied sound-absorbing materials in a room affect the persistence or
“lingering” of sound after a source is stopped. The reverberation period is the time in
seconds for the sound level to decay 60 dB after the source is turned off. It is directly
proportional to the cubic volume of the space and inversely proportional to the total
sound absorption present:
T = 0.16

where, T =reverberation time in seconds
V =volume in cubic feet (or cubic meters)
A=total absorption in square feet (or square meters)
(sum of room surfaces times their sound absorption coefficients plus the sound
absorption provided by furnishings or audience, etc.)
This equation holds true only for building spaces where the room dimensions are
within a 1:5 aspect ratio. The sound field in very wide rooms with low ceilings, does
not decay in a manner that permits direct use of the above expression. Similarly, it
cannot be applied for high absorbent outdoor like open spaces in buildings because,
the concept of reverberation becomes meaningless where a sound field is not
dominated by repeated reflections from the bounding surfaces.
However, for most typical rooms in buildings, the expression can yield a good
estimate of the reverberation period. Since the sound absorption coefficients of most
building materials vary with frequency, the reverberation calculations must be carried
out at representative low-,mid-, and high frequency ranges (e.g., in octave bands from
125 through 4000 Hz).
5.3 Early Decay Time (EDT10)
Early decay time is a modified measure of reverberation time. Reverberation time
is the time required for a sound to decay 60 dB whereas the early decay time is the
time required for the first 10 dB of decay multiplied by 6 to extrapolate the result to a
60-dB decay. In simple terms, it is the reverberation time, measured over the first 10
dB of the decay.
5.4 Initial Time Delay Gap (ITDG)
ITDG is defined as the interval between the arrival of the direct sound and the first
reflection at the listener.


5.5 Early-to-Late Energy Ratios (Elt) / Clarity
The early-to-late energy ratios compare the early energy in an impulse response to
the later or reverberant energy level. They are logarithmic ratios of the early sound
energy integrated from t = 0 to t =t, relative to the late or reverberant sound energy
integrated from t = t to t = ∞. The most widely used temporal energy ratio uses
t = 80 msec and is sometimes called Clarity index. It is also called Clarity or
Clearness index. This measure is also denoted as C or C
in the literature.
= 10 log
.….( 3)
Where, D
is a parameter known as Definition, which is the early to total sound
energy ratio. Clarity (C
) can also be defined as the difference (in dB) of the sound
energy received at a listener in the first 80 milliseconds minus the (late) reverberant
energy (all remaining sound energy). A greater value of C
gives music a sensation
of definition, while decreased definition adds ``fullness of tone'' (or ``muddiness''
when excessive).
5.6 Relative Loudness (L) or Relative Strength (G)
Relative loudness level (also called overall strength) is the sound energy level at a
seat in a room compared to the sound level at 10 m from the sound source in an
anechoic environment. It effectively measures the contribution to loudness of the
early reflections and reverberation in the room. Relative strength was proposed to
approximate the subjective sense of loudness. This measure is also denoted as L in
G= 10 log
௅௢௨ௗ௡௘௦௦ ௢௙ ௦௢௨௡ௗ ௜௡ ௥௢௢௠
௅௢௨ௗ௡௘௦௦ ௢௙ ௦௢௨௡ௗ ௜௡ ௔௡௘௖௛௢௜௖ ௥௢௢௠ ௔௧ ଵ଴௠

5.7 Bass Ratio Based on Early Decay Time, BR (EDT)
Bass ratio based on early decay time was proposed by Beranek (reverberation time
was originally used) to evaluate timbre or tonal balance, especially. It is measured by
the ratio of the sum of the early decay times at 125 and 250 Hz to the sum of the early
decay times at 500 Hz and 1 kHz. This is the reverberation times in the lower
frequencies divided by the reverberation times in the middle frequencies:
BR(RT) =
୪୭୵୤୰ୣ୯୳ୣ୬ୡ୷ ୰ୣ୴ୣ୰ୠୣ୰ୟ୲୧୭୬ ୲୧୫ୣ
୫୧ୢୢ୪ୣ ୤୰ୣ୯୳ୣ୬ୡ୷ ୰ୣ୴ୣ୰ୠୣ୰ୟ୲୧୭୬ ୲୧୫ୣ


5.8 Early Inter-Aural Cross Correlation Coefficient, IACC

IACC, measures the relative difference between the sounds that arrive at the left
and right ears of a listener. It is the normalized maximum cross correlation of the
sound pressures recorded at the left ear and right ear of a listener or a manikin with
the listener facing the sound source. This measure is referred to as early inter aural
cross correlation, IACC
if the integration time between t = 0 msec to t =
80 msec is used. Studies suggested that IACC
is correlated with the subjective
attribute of spaciousness and with the overall preference of people for listening to

The soul aim of designing a building acoustically is to effectively transfer the
sound from a source to the listeners (receivers), without sufficient loss or interference.
The general factors that contribute to the perception of sounds by humans in a room,
whether it is a large hall/ auditorium, a concert hall or a studio are discussed in this
section. The acoustic speech signal received by a listener is a function of the source,
distance, early reverberation, late reverberation, and noise. Specifically, it depends on
the Speech Audibility Index, which is defined, here, as the proportion of the combined
direct speech and early reverberation (also known as early reflections) whose level is
above that of the combined noise and late reverberation. Both reverberation and
ambient noise need to be low in order to maintain Speech Audibility Index at an
optimal level. Speech Audibility Index can be used to predict various measures of
speech perception, but the results are highly dependent on the complexity of the
language and the characteristics of the listener. Room acoustics have a major effect on
the transmission of speech sounds from the talker to the listener. Four principal
factors are involved: distance, early reverberation, late reverberation, and
(Boothroyd, 2002).
6.1 The Effects of Distance on the Direct Speech Signal
As the sound (say, speech) travels from the mouth of the speaker, the acoustical
energy is spread over an increasingly large area and the average decibel level falls. To
a first approximation, this effect follows the 6 dB rule. That is, the average speech
level falls by 6 dB for every doubling of distance from the source (lips). If, for
example, the average level is 70 dB SPL at 1 foot, then it is 64 dB SPL at 2 feet, 58
dB SPL at 4 feet and so on. This relationship has been illustrated by the broken curve
(labelled "Direct signal only") in Figure 2. In the open air, listeners receive only the
direct speech signal.
6.2 Direct and Reverberant Sound
In enclosed spaces, listeners also receive speech via reverberation. Reverberation
refers to the persistence of sound in a room because of multiple, repeated, reflections
from the boundaries. During sound generation, the reverberant sound is more or less
uniformly distributed throughout the room. The level of this reverberant sound in
relation to the level of the original source depends on the room size, the absorptive
properties of its boundaries and the directionality (also known as Q) of the source
(Davis and Davis, 1997). At any point in the room, a listener receives both direct
sound, whose level follows the 6 dB rule, and reverberant sound, whose level is
relatively independent of distance.

Figure 7 Speech level as a function of distance from the talker in a room
measuring 30x20x9 feet with a reverberation time of 0.5 seconds
When the listener is close to the source, the level of the direct sound exceeds that of
the reverberant sound. When the listener is far from the source, the reverberant sound
dominates. The critical distance is defined as the distance at which the levels of the
direct and reverberant sound are equal. At distances less than one third of the critical
distance, the direct sound is 10 dB or stronger than the reverberant sound and
reverberation can generally be ignored. At distances greater than three times the
critical distance, the direct sound is 10 dB or more weaker than the reverberant sound
and the received signal can be considered entirely reverberant. These points are
illustrated in Figure 7, which shows total speech level (direct plus reverberant) as a
function of distance for a small room (30x20x9 feet) with a relatively short
reverberation time (0.5 seconds) and a talker with a Q (i.e., directionality) of 3.5. In
this example, the estimated critical distance is 6 feet. It will be seen that most of the
listeners are receiving a mixture of direct and reverberant speech. Those in the last
three rows, however, are listening only to the reverberant speech. Note that most of
the listeners experience an increase in received speech level because of reverberation.
6.3 Early and Late Reverberations
When considering the effects of reverberation on speech perception, it is
important to distinguish between early and late components. The early components of
reverberation (more commonly referred to as early reflections) arrive at the listener's
ear soon enough after the original sound was generated to enhance both audibility and

Figure 8 Impulse Response plot obtained from a test conducted in a concert
hall (Barron and Dammerud)
Late reverberation arrives at the listener's ear too late after the original sound. It
cannot be integrated with the direct sound or with the early components of
reverberation. Moreover, it interferes with the recognition of subsequent sounds. The
impulse response plot shown in Figure 8 clearly represents the direct sound, early
reflections and late reflections.
6.4 Noise

Figure 9 Typical noises around a Concert Hall
Potential sources of actual noise (i.e., other than the speech itself) are numerous
and have both internal and external origins. Sound from external sources can be air-
borne or structure-borne. Some of the most common sources are air and road traffic,
heating, ventilating and air conditioning, external human activity (including speech),
and internal human activity (also including speech), as shown in Figure 9. The total
effective noise signal is a combination of actual noise and late reverberation. The
effect of the actual noise can be considered negligible if its level is 10 dB or more
below that of the late reverberation. Similarly, the effect of late reverberation can be
considered negligible if its level is 10 dB or more below that of the actual noise.
7.1 Flutter Echoes
A flutter echo is equally spaced in time repetitive and successive sound
reflections. This to varying degrees can make speech difficult to understand or in
some cases totally unintelligible in rooms. It can also affect the perception of music’s

tonal qualities by adding a negative pitch or timbre coloration. This problem can be
greatly amplified by speakers and their placement in the room.
7.2 Reverberation
Reverberant sound is the reflected sound as a result of improper absorption.
Excessive reverberation is one of the most common defects, with the result that sound
once created longs for a longer duration, resulting in confusion with the sound created
7.3 Sound Foci
Reflecting concave surfaces cause concentration of reflected sound waves at
certain spot, creating a sound of large intensity.
7.4 Dead Spots
This defect is an outcome of the formation of sound foci. Because of high
concentration of reflected sound at sound foci, there is deficiency of reflected sound at
some other points.
7.5 Discrete/ Delayed Reflections
Discrete reflection stands out from the general reverberation. This most
commonly occurs when sound from the main source hits a large surface, often an un-
treated back wall and then reflects back onto stage. It is a very clean path from the
speakers to the back wall then to the stage. It sounds like the original signal just out of
time. This can be very distracting to less experienced presenters and musicians.
The general layout of a concert hall is as shown in Figure 10. It consists of a stage
floor (which may or may not be provided with risers), a reflector canopy at the top of
the stage, and the seating space for the audience.
8.1 Control of Reverberation
The reverberation of a room depends on the size of room since, if room is small,
reflections will take place quickly as waves have to travel less distance, so time will
be less, and also on the shape of the hall. Besides the size and shape, the surface of
walls and ceilings has an effect on the parameter. The acoustics of a concert hall
require very diffuse reflections throughout the room.

Figure 10 Elements of a Concert Hall stage
To enhance the reverberance and give a sense of sound envelopment, the side
walls and sometimes the ceilings, acoustic panels are installed, which are often shaped
to scatter sounds. Plaster is often used as material, to create these shapes, which may
be large architectural forms or smaller decorative and functional forms. In addition to
specially modifying the ceiling to scatter, Absorbers, such as the ceiling tiles and
carpet, are not often used in large concert halls, because they remove energy from the
space. In a hall every bit of energy must be conserved because there is a limit to the
energy an orchestra can produce. Hence, Diffusers are used to perform such functions.
A major development was made by Schroeder (1979) who proposed a group of
diffusers whose reflection properties can be calculated in advance. The Quadratic
Residue Diffuser (QRD), shown in Figure 11, is one of the most widely used
Schroeder Diffusers. QRD can be designed to diffuse sound in either one or two
directions. They can be used to control the reverberation and echoes in a closed space.
8.2 Control of Echoes
Diffusers are used in a variety of ways. For instance, they can be used to reduce
echoes arising from the rear walls of halls. Sound takes a long time to travel from the
stage to the rear wall of a concert hall, and if a strong reflection comes back from the
rear wall to the front of the hall, this may be heard as an echo. Plywood and wood
fibre acoustic products are used in theatres and auditoriums to provide low-frequency
reverberation control. Timber acoustic panelling will often use holes or slots to
increase the amount of sound absorption, essentially breaking up the energy of the
sound wave. By breaking up the sound, the echoes are reduced.

Figure 11 A pair of suspended quadratic residue reflectors in the Glasgow Royal
Concert Hall, Scotland

8.3 Removal of Sound Foci and Dead Spots
Sound Foci within a building is undesirable, as it leads to concentration of
sound energy at a point. They can be effectively removed by geometrical designed
shapes of the interior faces, including ceiling, providing highly absorbent materials on
focusing areas. Dead Spots can be removed by using diffusers so that there is even
distribution of sound in the hall.


8.4 Influence of Other Materials in the Acoustic Design of Halls
The noise associated with the environment of a concert hall can be reduced using
acoustic treatments such as Draperies, Curtains and Carpeting. Acoustic Curtain is
an acoustic composite manufactured from sound absorbing specially formulated
fibreglass insulation and a polymeric sound barrier using absorptive and barrier
elements encapsulated with Vinyl facings. The fibreglass insulation provides both
excellent sound absorption and thermal insulation. The composite is manufactured
using three layers of fibreglass. Draperies are generally absorptive in nature.
Hence they are seldom used in Concert Halls. They should not be used around the
stage, since the orchestra requires all of the solid sound reflective backp.


During the design of buildings, acoustics is a factor that cannot be left out.
Architectural acoustics is an art of creating a space that is audio friendly to the people
inside it. This study has revealed that reverberation is the most important parameter
while evaluating or designing a building acoustically. The intelligibility of sound
depends on various factors such as the sound level form the source, the distance from
the source, the frequency of sound, the size of the room, etc. This report has
succeeded in putting forward the common acoustic defects and essential measures to
be adopted for implementing acoustic control by taking the case of concert halls in
general. These measures include using sound absorbers, diffusers and reflectors to
effectively control the reverberation in particular, and all the defects associated with
it. Thus this report has fulfilled the aim of the study, as suggested by the title “study
on application of acoustics and noise control in buildings”.


[1] James D. Janning, AIA, CSI, Architectural Systems Manager, USG
Corporation, “Understanding Acoustics in Architectural Design”
[2] David McCandless (1990) “Concert Halls- Specifying for Sound
Performance”, The Construction Specifier
[3] accessed on 14/07/12
[4] accessed on
[5] Cavanaugh ,William J. (2009) “Architectural Acoustics: Principles and
Practice” 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons Publishers
[6] Barron, M. and Dammerud, J.J. (2006) “Stage Acoustics In Concert Halls –
Early Investigations.” Proc. of the Inst. of Acoustics, Dept. of Architecture &
Civil Engineering, University of Bath, UK, Vol. 28. Part 2.
[7] Cox,Trevor J. and D’Antonio, Peter (2003) “Engineering Art: The Science Of
Concert Hall Acoustics” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Vol.28, No.2
[8] Barron, Michael (2009) “Auditorium Acoustics and Architecture Design”
Second Edition, Spon Press
[9] Long, Marshall (2006) “Architectural Acoustics” First Edition, Elsevier
Academic Press