Hear the sound in your new building

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In future, scientific acoustics calculations will be included in the first rough sketches from the architects at Henning Larsen Architects. Young researcher delivers data, models, and simulations, which will also be used in a virtual reality tool for the clients.

French International School, by Henning Larsen Architects

Traditionally, the architects’ first sketches for a construction project have mainly focused on creating a beautiful and functional building that blends in with its surroundings. Later in the process, other experts have been involved in the project to ensure the right light incidence and acoustic environment.

“However, when the architects already from the outset have the right knowledge about, for example, the impact of light and acoustics on a well-functioning classroom or open-plan office, they can create both better and less expensive new buildings. It’s no longer necessary to subsequently invest large sums in, for example, sound dampening panels for walls and ceilings, because the architect—thanks to his choice of materials and furnishings—has already taken the steps necessary to create good acoustic comfort,” says Jakob Strømann-Andersen, Partner and Head of Sustainability Engineering at Henning Larsen Architects.

Henning Larsen Architects has for many years employed a holistic approach to the design of buildings and has included scientific data to support this—through a close cooperation with industrial PhD students from universities.

“We currently have four PhD students who provide us with scientific insight into such diverse areas as acoustic panels, light, facade materials, and space utilization seen from the perspective of an anthropologist,” says Jakob Strømann-Andersen. He was the first PhD student at the studio who contributed with new insight into energy-efficient design, which today is a matter of course in all the studio’s projects.

Acoustics essential for learning and productivity

One of the four industrial PhD students currently working at the studio is Finnur Pind from DTU Electrical Engineering (Technical University of Denmark), who expects to be able to deliver two specific tools to Henning Larsen Architects when he completes his project.

“My knowledge about acoustics must first of all be integrated into the digital tool architects use for their initial ideas and sketches. Using my models, the tool will tell the architect how the acoustic environment will be in the sketches they are working with. The existing acoustics tools are very detailed and developed for the final stages of a project. My tool is intended to be used in the early project stages, where the overall decisions about the design of a building are made,” says Finnur Pind.

Several studies have demonstrated that acoustics and sound have a major impact on our learning and performance in both classrooms and on the job. And things are not just black and white. Productivity in a large open-plan office is, for example, not increased just by dampening all sounds—on the other hand, most people are stimulated by being able to hear the faint sounds of others working around them. The new tool will therefore be able to completely replace the involvement of an acoustics expert during the process.

“Once I’ve finished calculating models and algorithms for use in the architects’ preliminary work, both parts will also be used in a virtual reality tool. In this way, we make it possible for the clients to hear the difference between a room, depending on which materials and design are being used. We’ve already tried it on a small scale in connection with a project for the University of Cincinnati, where the architects designed three classrooms in different ways, and where the client was subsequently able to hear how much difference it made to the acoustics and the overall experience of the room,” says Finnur Pind.

Science an increasingly important element in buildings

The evidence-based approach will both ensure a better dialogue with the clients and help to maintain the architectural angle in the buildings,” emphasizes Jakob Strømann-Andersen.

“Many experts are involved in a construction project. If we as architects want to ensure a common thread in all areas, we also need to have the necessary scientific knowledge to ensure the correct sound, among other things. In our approach to sustainable construction, we focus on reducing resource consumption. This means that we work with entirely different materials than previously, where everything was covered by gypsum boards—and therefore we need knowledge about how we can create good acoustics under the new conditions.”

 

Article by Anne Kirsten Frederiksen, DTU Online News  

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