When to Hire an Acoustic Consultant

church acoustics consulting
Sep 26 2019
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Every project is unique. Even if there are acoustical requirements, certainly many projects will not require the detailed review of an acoustic consultant. However, not using a consultant can be more costly than hiring one, especially if there are noise complaints and post-tenant modifications or retrofits needed to fix these issues. Learn when hiring an acoustic consultant is the right decision, and what kind of consultant you may need.

Hiring an Acoustic Consultant – Learn When, Who, and How

There are a number of factors to consider whenever requesting professional services – be it legal, accounting, engineering, or in our case, acoustics. Certainly chief among these is cost, since hourly rates can drive up a budget before the project really gets started.

What Does an Acoustic Consultant Do?

Acoustic Consultants provide services on a wide range of projects, depending on the individual needs and requirements of their clients. These services can vary broadly, from acoustical field testing to determine how well floors and walls are performing to review of design documents to assess acoustical risks in the project.

Services may be rendered throughout the design life-cycle of a project, such as during Schematic Design, through Detailed Design, and completed during Construction Documentation.

Consider Project Risk – Some Projects Have More Unique Acoustic Requirements

Certain projects inherently have much greater risk than others. One development type where litigation is a key concern is during condo design and construction. Condominium soundproofing means meeting or exceeding the building codes for sound attenuation, since clients often have reasonable expectation of privacy. This expectation may sometimes exceed the building code itself, and is sometimes proportional to the cost of the condo.

Other projects have unique acoustical requirements. Mixed-use developments, for instance, often have significant sound attenuation needs, especially if there are gymnasiums or bars and restaurants directly attached to, or adjacent to, office space or multi-family units.

Likewise, churches and worship centers have unique acoustical requirements, due to reverberation in the space. When music is a critical piece of the service, frequency-band analysis is needed to ensure that treatment addresses low and high frequencies alike.

church acoustics consulting
Churches often need acoustic consulting to ensure proper treatment, due to low frequency generation and high ceilings.

What types of Acoustic Consultants are There?

There are two primary certifying bodies for acoustic consultants. These are INCE, Industrial Noise Control Engineers, and NCAC, the National Council of Acoustic Consultants.

INCE engineers tend to be generally more focused on industrial applications, including noise control for automotive manufacturing and other consumer goods-focused design. NCAC consultants, on the other hand, have significant knowledge in Architectural Acoustics, including reverberation, sound transmission, and other architectural measures. Some consultants have more structural engineering background, and may be more comfortable with vibra-acoustic analysis. Others may have more of an electrical background, and be most focused on speaker system layout and design. It is important to understand what consultant you are dealing with, and ask for referrals when unsure.

There are also a number of independent Acoustic Specialists nationwide, that provide acoustical solutions, both consulting services as well as custom solutions. Commercial Acoustics is a member of INCE, and serves clients across the United States for a number of needs.

What training is required for Acoustic Consultants?

Unlike some other engineering disciplines, especially those with life safety concerns, there is less regulation in regards to acoustical engineering and consulting. Professional Engineers (PEs) must often stamp off on structural criteria, or electrical and mechanical designs. However, there is no “state-issued” stamp for acoustic consultants. Instead, it is more generally you “get what you pay for”.

With Acoustic Consultants, there is less life safety concern, and it is thus less regulated than other engineering disciplines. Often-times you “get what you pay for”.

Do you need an Acoustic Consultant?

At the end of the day, you have to weight the pros and cons of attaining consulting services. Architects and contractors also bring a wealth of knowledge on many projects. However, there is a also a great amount of misinformation when it comes to wall STCs – many contractors use thicker gauge studs to “block more sound”, when this does exactly the opposite. Consider the risks inherit in your project, and the level of complexity for acoustical criteria, to best determine if an acoustic consultant may benefit your project.

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