E-news September 2020

Project Highlight

Asheville Art Museum Expansion and Renovation

Established in 1948, the Asheville Art Museum is the third oldest art museum in North Carolina. At the beginning of this century the museum recognized a need for more space, and for a new facility that was intentionally designed to display art and host an active, growing regional arts culture. Completed at the end of 2019, the new facility increases the museum’s collection gallery space by 70% and doubles the collection storage. Additions include a new entrance atrium, special events and space to display large-scale artwork, an interactive area for small children, a new education wing, support spaces for faculty and staff, and a rooftop pavilion and terrace overlooking the Pisgah mountain range. Working with the Architect of Record, ARCA Design, TA provided acoustical, audiovisual/telecom and security design consulting services for this $24 million project.  Recommendations for room finishes within the larger spaces helped reduce reverberation time and echoes; Wall, door, and interior glazing recommendations helped limit the transfer of sound; a full mechanical noise control review helped reduce background noise form the HVAC system.  A complete design/build package including performance specifications and scope definitions were provided for the audiovisual, security and IT/data/telecom systems throughout the facility.

Asheville Art Museum helps revitalize the downtown area

Acoustical Ceiling treatments throughout help reduce build-up of noise

Soaring ceilings and open walkways help create a sense of space

Sound Quality and Its Impact on Design

Many people used to judge the “quality” of a new car by the sound generated when the door was closed.  A smooth, solid “ca-thunk” was a sign of a well-built automobile, while inferior vehicles were identifiable by a hollow or “tinny” sounding door close.  While this may sound silly, it does reflect an important aspect of sound quality in the environments which we live, work, and play.

Take a moment and listen to the world around you and try to identify individual sounds.  For example, if you’re in an office, listen for the clack of a coworker’s keyboard; the beep of the break room microwave; or the howl, hiss, or rumble of the HVAC system.  If you’re at home, listen for the hum of the refrigerator; the throb of the dishwasher; or the clatter and groan of the heat or AC kicking on.  All of these noises contribute to the overall sound level within a room, but each has a unique sound quality.

What is sound quality?  All noise sources have a unique sound signature that is determined by the frequencies generated, their relative strength and how the sound varies over time.  Noise that includes sound over many or all of the audible frequencies is considered broadband noise, while noise that consists of one or more prominent frequency peaks is considered tonal noise.  When a tonal noise is a higher frequency, it is often described as a whine or chirp.  A tonal noise that is in a low frequency is often described as a throb or a rumble.

Why does sound quality matter?  Too often, designers focus solely on the overall noise level within an environment.  This is commonly expressed in decibels, weighted to account for human hearing, or dBA.  By simplifying the background noise to a single number, the sound quality is typically neglected, despite being a significant, if not equivalent, contributor to a user’s perception of sounds.

Obviously, loud noise levels can have an adverse effect on occupants, regardless of any other quality of the sound.  However, even if the noise levels are acceptable sound can still provide a significant source of annoyance. While the human brain is very good at disregarding broadband noise, we typically notice and are irritated by tonal noises.

How does knowing this help us to design better environments?  It starts with analyzing the intended use of the space, and then examining what items in the space will contribute sound.  Quiet is always better, right? Not necessarily!  While quieter is typically better in sleeping areas, imagine if your office had no background noise from building systems.  In such an environment, you can clearly hear every conversation a colleague has, every time they drag their foot across the floor, and every time they click their pen.  In office environments, some background noise is desirable to mask intrusive noises from coworkers.

In both the home and at work, if tonal or unsettling noises are present, occupants will be disturbed.  Avoiding or attenuating tonal noises requires evaluating the full frequency spectrum generated by each noise source, not just the overall level.  Many HVAC units, especially when located very close or within the occupied space, generate both broadband noise and tonal noise.  Unit selection should take this into account.  Avoiding devices with strong tonal noise, or attenuating their levels below the background noise level, will improve the occupants’ satisfaction with the auditory environment.

Designing spaces that people want to spend time in requires addressing all of our senses, including hearing.  This requires careful analysis of the physical space, its intended use, and all potential noise sources.  To produce a well-rounded environment, designers must address not only the overall sound levels in a space, but also the qualities of that sound.

Recent Happenings

In case you haven’t heard…

Mac recently obtained his Registered Communications Distribution Designer® (RCDD®) certification. Critical to building infrastructure development, this BICSI flagship program involves design and implementation of telecommunications distribution systems. Those who achieve the RCDD designation have demonstrated their knowledge in the creation, planning, integration, execution and/or detailed-oriented project management of telecommunications and data communications technology system design. “I’ve been active in the design of low voltage systems for over 20 years” states Mac. “Obtaining this certification is just one way to highlight my dedication to the quality design of audiovisual, data/telecom, and network systems.”

Paul recently obtained his WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP™) credential through the International WELL Building Institute™ placing him among a group of leading professionals who are dedicated to supporting human health and well-being in the places and spaces where we spend our time. WELL APs have successfully passed the WELL AP exam, an assessment based on the expertise of leading practitioners in the field of design, health and wellness. Developed using GBCI’s rigorous test development best practices, the WELL AP exam is designed to test a candidate’s knowledge and proficiency in building wellness and the principles, practices and applications of the WELL Building Standard. “I’m excited to achieve this accreditation” states Paul.  “In today’s post COVID-19 environment it is critical to pay close attention to how our designs impact occupant health, productivity, and well-being.”

Steve recently was honored with AVIXA’s 2020 Fred Dixon Service in Education Award!  Each year, AVIXA (Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association) recognizes outstanding AV professionals for their contributions to the industry. “I am very honored to receive this award” states Steve.  “There is a wealth of knowledge that needs to be passed on to others and teaching clients and industry professionals through AVIXA, AIA, webinars, and client lunch and learns is one of my favorite ways to do that.”  Steve was also honored with AVIXA’s 2011 Educator of the Year Award and currently working on a book titled Acoustics in Architecture.

Congratulations to Mac, Paul, and Steve!

Upcoming Events

September 15 – 17

Sponsor for the AIA South Atlantic Region Aspire Virtual Conference
Attendees get access to an array of 36 sessions, keynotes & special events curated to help design professionals reach further in their careers.
More info: https://aspirexp.com/

October 8

AIA Webinar: Don’t let the A in AV stand for afterthought! (1 HSW)
This session provides an understanding of trends in technology advancements and their effect on the presentation space; strategic planning tools including typical infrastructure requirements, budget information, and design standards; design checklists for use on your next project. Those involved in the planning of presentation spaces and the support of technology will obtain an understanding of best practices as well as a useful rules-of-thumb to guide the initial planning efforts.
More info: https://aiatriangle.org/event/live-webinar-dont-let-the-a-in-av-stand-for-afterthought/

October 19

Tee Box Tent Sponsor for the AIA Triangle Golf Tournament
Located at the 12 Oaks Golf Club in Holly Springs, NC.  It will take place on the full course with 124 players. Proceeds from this event go to fund AIA Triangle Scholarships for students studying architecture at NC State College of Design and Wake Tech Community College.
More info: https://aiatriangle.org//events/golf-tournament/