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Understanding Acoustics 1/6
In buildings, acoustic treatment is added to reduce the impact of sound entering into specific areas.
Sound is controlled by three means:
Firstly treatment of the source (e.g. building an enclosure around the source such as around
compressors, or adding acoustic treatment to the area where the sound is coming from)
Secondly treatment of the path of the noise (e.g. erection of barriers such as building walls on freeways)
And finally treatment at the receiver end. (e.g. wearing earplugs)
There are two types of acoustic functions that are of concern in the building industry; sound insulation and
sound absorption.
The acoustic treatments discussed in this manual are focused on sound absorption.
Autex has created acoustic treatments that reduce the levels of noise reverberation within interior
environments by absorption of the sound.
Sound is defined as a source of energy; Sound absorption is the ability of a material to transform acoustical
energy into some other form or energy, usually heat. All materials absorb some acoustical energy, some
materials such as plasterboard reflect most of the energy that strikes it, whereas other materials such as
polyester insulation will absorb most of the energy.
The decimal fraction of the sound energy absorbed and not reflected by a material is termed sound
absorption coefficient.
As materials absorb different amounts of sound energy at different frequencies, sound absorption
coefficients are measured at onethird octave band centre frequencies from 125 to 4000 Hz.
Building materials are generally rated by their Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC).
To be an effective sound absorber, a material must have interconnecting air pockets or cells. Polyester
insulation is a very good sound absorber because it has many interconnecting air pockets.
Common Noise Reverberation terms
Absorption: The changing of energy to heat which reduces the amount of energy which can be reflected.
Absorption Coefficient: The amount of sound energy which is absorbed at any surface, this can vary with
frequency and the angle at which the sound hits surface.
Hertz (Hz): Frequency of sound. The same as Cycles Per Second.
KHz: Frequency in thousands e.g. 1 KHz = 1000Hz
Noise Reduction (NR): The difference in sound pressure level between any two points along the path of
Technical Guides:
Residential Insulation Design Guide
Commercial Acoustic Design Guide
Mechanical Services Insulation Guide
Quietspace® Design Guide
1. Why Polyester?
2. Environmental Considerations
3. Why consider Acoustics?
4. Understanding Acoustics
5. Autex Quietspace Acoustic Products
6. Quietspace in Education
7. Quietspace in Offices
8. Quietspace Versatility
9. Quietspace Residential
10. Quietspace Product Estimator
11. Quietspace Working Examples
4. Understanding Acoustics
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sound propagation.
Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC): The arithmetic average of the products sound absorption coefficient
measured over four octave bands.
Reflection: Sound is reflected just as light is with the angle of incidence equaling the angle of reflection.
Reverberation: The persistence of sound which one hears after the original sound has ceased.
Reverberation Time: The time taken for a sound to decay by 60 decibels once the original sound has
Sound Absorption Coefficient: This measures the absorptive property of a material. Ideally, the majority of the
energy is absorbed and then the rest is reflected.
Speech Intelligibility: The ability for a listener to understand speech clearly, this can be particularly
problematic in classrooms and other teaching environments.
Sound Transmission Class (STC): A single number rating system which represents the sound
transmission loss of a wall.
NRC and STC are completely exclusive of one another. A material with a high NRC will help to absorb
sound, stopping it from reflecting back into the room.
Most materials that have a high NRC will have a low STC and allow a large amount of sound to pass
through into the adjacent room.
A construction system with a High STC will not necessarily be good at absorbing or stopping reflected
Sound Transmission Coefficient (STC)
STC deals with sound transmission through structures. Sound transmission creates disruption and gives
the real or perceived loss of privacy which can affect how we work, rest and react in certain situations.
Building code requirements state that a wall construction / system must be laboratory rated at STC55 or
higher for intertenancy construction. With an STC of 50 being achieved on site.
Common causes of complaints relating to acoustics are mechanical noises, music, raised voices and foot
fall. Foot fall is rated differently (impact insulation class). There are some basic rules of thumb when
designing walls that perform well acoustically. Mass, Air tightness and Separation or Decoupling .
Noise Reductions Coefficient (NRC)
NRC deals with noise reverberation within a space.
A materials ability to absorb sound is measured by its sound absorption coefficient and is often expressed
in terms of a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC)
The NRC is the arithmetic average of the product’s sound absorption coefficients at 250,500,1000 and
The sound absorption coefficients of products are measured according to ISO140-3. An NRC of 0.4 means
40 % of sound is absorbed by the material.
Typical building materials such as plasterboard have an NRC of approximately 0.04 which means only of
4% sound will be absorbed.
Reverberation is defined as "the combined effect of multiple sound reflections within a room."
The reverberation characteristics of a room are affected by several factors: the shape and size of the room,
the materials of which the room is constructed, and the materials present in the room.
These materials are especially important since they determine how much sound is absorbed and how
much is reflected.
Build up of noise in an enclosed space
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When a sound source stops emitting energy, it takes some time for the sound to become inaudible. This
prolongation of the sound in the room caused by continued multiple reflections is called reverberation.
Reverberation time plays a crucial role in the sound quality of spaces and the ability to understand speech in
a given space.
When room surfaces are highly reflective, sound continues to reflect or reverberate. The effect of this
condition is described as a live space with a long reverberation time. A high reverberation time will cause a
build-up of the noise level in a space.
The effects of reverberation time on a given space are for example crucial to musical conditions and
understanding speech. It is difficult to choose an optimum reverberation time in a multi-purpose space, as
different uses require different reverberation times.
A reverberation time that is optimum for a music program could be disastrous to the intelligibility of the
spoken word. Conversely, a reverberation time that is excellent for speech can cause music to sound dry
and flat.
Recommended Reverberation Times
AS/NZS 2107:2000: Recommended Design Sound Levels and Reverberation Times for building interiors
General office areas 0.4 to 0.6 seconds
Private offices 0.6 to 0.8 seconds
School classrooms 0.4 to 0.5 seconds
While AS/NZS 2107:2000 does not include recommendations for residential dwellings, It is accepted that a
reverberation time greater than 0.8 seconds is unsuitable for domestic living areas.
Guide to recommended Reverberation times
EDUCATIONAL BUILDINGS Recommended design sound level DB(A) Recommended
Type of occupancy/activity Satisfactory Maximum Reverberation time
Teaching spaces Primary Schools 35 45 0.4 to 0.5
Teaching spaces Secondary Schools 35 45 0.5 to 0.6
Audio Visual areas 30 35 0.6 to 0.8
Art Studios 40 45 0.6 to 0.8
Computer Rooms 40 45 0.4 to 0.6
Conference Rooms 35 40 0.6 to 0.7
Corridors & Lobbies 45 50 0.6 to 0.8
Libraries 40 45 0.4 to 0.6
Music Practice Rooms 40 45 0.7 to 0.9
Music Performance Room 40 45 1.0 to 1.5
Office Areas 40 45 0.4 to 0.6
Lecture theatre less than 50 people 30 35 <0.8
Lecture theatre more than 50 people 35 45 <1.0
Assembly Halls, Multi-Purpose Halls 45 55 0.8 To 1.2
Indoor Sports Hall 45 55 <1.5
Gymnasiums 45 55 <1.5
HEALTH BUILDINGS Recommended design sound level DB(A) Recommended
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Type of occupancy/activity Satisfactory Maximum Reverberation time
Casualty Areas 40 45 0.4 to 0.6
Corridors & Lobbies 40 50 0.4 to 0.6
Consulting rooms 40 45 0.4 to 0.6
Wards 35 40 0.4 to 0.7
Waiting rooms, Reception areas 35 50 0.4 to 0.7
OFFICE BUILDINGS Recommended design sound level DB(A) Recommended
Type of occupancy/activity Satisfactory Maximum Reverberation time
Board & Conference Rooms 30 40 0.6 to 0.8
Call Centres 40 45 0.1 to 0.4
General Office areas 40 45 0.4 to 0.6
Private Office areas 35 40 0.6 to 0.8
Corridors & Lobbies 45 50 0.4 to 0.6
PUBLIC BUILDINGS Recommended design sound level DB(A) Recommended
Type of occupancy/activity Satisfactory Maximum Reverberation time
Municipal Building public spaces 40 50 0.4 to 0.6
Library reading areas 40 45 0.4 to 0.6
Post Offices & Banks 40 45 0.6 to 0.8
Corridors & Lobbies 45 50 0.4 to 0.6
Restaurants & Cafes 35 50 <1.0
Sound Absorption at different frequencies
At a glance the graph below shows us a products ability to absorb sound at differing frequencies.
The product represented by the red line is good at absorbing lower frequency sound while the product
represented by blue line is only suitable for controlling higher frequency sound.
Frequencies of common sounds
Frequencies of common sounds
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Frequency Example of Source Sound
20 - 15000Hz Home Theatre
50 - 100 Hz Trucks or Earthmoving Equipment
100 - 300Hz Cars
200 - 1600 Hz Speech
200 - 2000Hz Office
300 - 1000Hz Aircraft
2000 - 8000Hz Birds
NRC's - are not all the same
Noise reduction coefficient (NRC): The arithmetic average, to the nearest multiple of .05, of the sound
absorption coefficients in the 1/3 octave bands centred at 250Hz, 500Hz, 1000Hz, and 2000Hz.
These graphs tell us the performance of the product relating to it’s ability to absorb sound at different
Both products A & B represented below have an NRC of about 0.3 (NRC 0.3) however we can see that they
perform differently from each other, therefore it is important to understand what we are looking at.
Down the left hand side we have a range of numbers that tell us how much sound the product is absorbing
at any given frequency.
The numbers running along the bottom are the differing frequencies starting from lower and shifting higher
as we move right.
Product A

Product B
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