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Acoustics, sustainability and green buildings workshop at EIAS 2011

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Peter Rogers (Cole Jarman) – photo by Martin Arvebro

EIAS 2011 Workshop: Acoustics, sustainability and green buildings

Sustainability has become an underpinning principle of living. Sustainability does not only relate to recycling of materials and reduction of emissions but also acoustic quality matters. In this work shop we wanted to highlight the sustainability especially in relation to acoustics, and what role acoustics can play connected to green building certifications or ratings.

Presenters were René Gamba, Peter Rogers, Carsten Svensson and Jonas Skeppås.

Workshop: Acoustics, sustainability and green buildings
Moderator – Peter Rogers
Co-moderator – Carsten Svensson
René Gamba, GAMBA Acoustique et Associés, France
Acoustic comfort: A unique indicator of the quality of sound climate
In France, “HQE” proposes a methodology to design, build and exploit healthy and comfortable “green” buildings. To be certified “HQE” you have to match 14 targets, one of these is exclusively about acoustics, and acoustics meets also several other targets.
More than 3 targets have to be upper a very good level (and energy is one of these targets), more than 4 targets have to be above than a good level, and the other need to reach a basic level.
For each target (energy, waste, water, acoustics, etc) it is natural to try to express the performance, or the quality, by means of unique indicators easy to read and to understand. That is why the “GIAc” works to the definition of a unique indicator of the acoustic comfort in a place. The objective is to be able to post a label at the entrance of the building, with green arrows (it is very good), yellow (it is just good) orange (it is inferior), red (it is bad), or purple (The building is unfit for its destination, it is unhealthy), as we make it for refrigerators, or for energy efficiency of buildings.
This acoustic indicator will have to take into account the various parameters of the acoustic comfort (reverberation, noises of equipments, impacts noise level, sound insulation), by integrating in particular the balance between them.
Peter Rogers, Cole Jarman, UK
How can a green building be truly sustainable without it having sustainable acoustics?
This talk will aim to answer this question and probably creating a whole lot more. It will expand on the plenary session presentation to explore in more depth why Green Buildings demand a fresh approach by acousticians, and what that could be. Have we being deafened by noise and unable to appreciate the need for positive sound. This is likely to provide plenty of scope for debate on this topic, with the aim of revealing a route map for what constitutes good acoustic design in the greener buildings of the future and how acousticians need to take responsibility and proactively expand their influence to getting the message across as each opportunity presents itself.
More time will be spent providing examples, tools and the ideal approach for various types of buildings, with one high profile office example being focused on as a case study. This is the WWF-UK HQ – Living Planet Centre, Woking, UK which aims to be a flagship green building.
Areas where further research and opportunities for development are needed will also be mentioned before opening the floor to the workshop and further debate.
Carsten Svensson, Saint-Gobain Ecophon. Sweden
Accessibility, acoustics and sustainability
A “society for all” has been on the agenda in several countries the last years – and still is! In line with this, buildings have to be accessible and usable for people also with disabilities such as limited orientation capacity. An important principle is that all people have equal rights and are of equal value. It is a principle of, for instance, the Swedish building legislation that all new buildings and those which are renovated should be fully accessible for disabled people. Since 2001 it has also been required in Sweden that easily eliminated obstacles to accessibility and usability should have been remedied before the end of 2010.
In order to give all people equal rights to participate in society, the built environment must be made accessible and usable also for people with disabilities. Moreover, what is good for disabled people is most likely also good for everyone else.
In terms of accessibility and usability, acoustics relates more to the concept of usability.
Usability means that people can take part in the environment and use it. Acoustics is primarily related to persons with limited orientation capacity, and a good acoustic environment, in this sense, primarily benefits persons with impaired vision and hearing, persons with cognitive difficulties and the elderly.
This presentation highlights who benefits particularly from good acoustics and how acoustics can be applied in practice with regard to accessibility and usability. Good acoustics is one parameters contributing to a sustainable world and acoustics certainly must be a natural part of sustainable design. Our hearing and aural sense directly affects our safety, communication, social health and wellbeing, thus our quality of life. Knowledge on acoustics and practical implications in the built environment affects the progress towards a sustainable future.
Jonas Skeppås, Saint-Gobain Ecophon, Sweden
TABS (Thermally activated building systems)
“A trend today in modern buildings is to use the ceiling as a cooling surface, to use thermally activated building systems (TABS). An advantage with this solution is the increased possibility to use sources for cooling such as ground or sea water since the large ceiling area can operate at a relative high cooling temperature. The ceiling can also store the cold air that is available during the night and the risk for draught and discomfort will also be reduced compared to traditional cooling with cool air.
A challenge arises when this system is combined with a requirement for good acoustics. The traditional solution – an overall, class A acoustic ceiling – does not work, as the cooling effect from the concrete is shielded by the ceiling. One solution is to use free-hanging units, which improve the acoustics in addition to allowing effective cooling. Ecophon has performed tests based on the European standard EN 14240:2004 in order to evaluate how the cooling effect is influenced by free-hanging units. This test has been combined with similar test reports from other parties in a general graph. The results indicate that much of the cooling is produced by natural convection and that it is important not to impede the air movement around the ceiling units.”

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