Contract - November 2009 - (Page 26)

green the green acoustics paradox Why sustainability versus acoustical quality doesn’t have to be a trade-off By Victoria Cerami Clean air, natural light, thermal comfort, a productive ambience are all elements of indoor environmental quality that come to mind when we think of successful corporate interiors. They all contribute to occupant health and performance. Paradoxically, however, sustainable design often leaves acoustics out of the picture. Except in the case of LEED for Schools (with LEED Healthcare on the horizon), there are no LEED credits for acoustics. This oversight is compounded by the fact that designers can inadvertently compromise acoustics when designing green. It is not that acoustics are deemed unimportant. Routinely, distracting noise and lack of acoustical privacy are at the top of workplace complaints. In green buildings, it turns out, it can be even worse. In a 2006 report by the Center for the Built Environment (CBE) at UC Berkeley, surveys showed that occupants of LEED-rated and/or green buildings were found to be more satisfied with their indoor environment than their counterparts in non-green buildings. Yet, when it came to acoustics specifically, occupant satisfaction was lower in green than in non-green buildings. Designers are eager to design sustainably, and sometimes their strategies—such as using fewer materials, avoiding synthetics, limiting toxic materials and finishes, as well as maximizing natural light—translate into open plan spaces with fewer walls, high and exposed ceilings, and hard surfaces all around. These design approaches can reduce the opportunity for sound absorption, creating inherently noisy spaces. Leigh Stringer of HOK and author of The Green Workplace says, “More often than any of us would like, green strategies present a challenge to acoustics.” For Stringer, this is no small matter. In fact, she categorizes unwanted noise in the green workplace as a “productivity inhibitor.” Rectifying acoustical problems after a space is occupied can require more complicated or costly solutions than if those issues were avoided in the first place. So how can designers create sustainable spaces that also support occupants’ acoustical needs? Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED at the USGBC, feels that good sustainable design always requires an integrative design process. “Green design presents challenges to acoustics, but hopefully it encourages people to think more holistically about their projects so that they pull in an acoustic consultant early on,” he says. Select No. 70 at

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - November 2009

Contract - November 2009
Hips Don’t Lie
Within Arm’s Reach
A Little Off the Top
The Green Acoustics Paradox
Indian Eatery
Lace and Pinstripes
Viva Milwaukee
Pie in the Sky
Work Hard, Play Hard
Police Presence
2009 Brand Report
Ad Index

Contract - November 2009