Focus on Acoustics: Mixed Use Buildings

Many cities are changing their zoning laws to allow for the development of mixed-use buildings or re-development sites.  This means that many planning committees that once favored the suburban planning model of residences in one part of town and business in another are now moving towards a new model more like urban centers.  While this is great for reducing traffic, it comes with many acoustical considerations that are often overlooked by project planners and developers.

This also means that mixed-use buildings have additional acoustical considerations on top of those necessary for a typical multi-family building.  It is necessary to acoustically isolate all neighbors from one another in mixed-use buildings.  This includes making certain that the bar on the first floor doesn’t keep the people living on the upper floors awake and also doesn’t disturb the evening students at the yoga studio next door.  The impact of disruptive noise from vibration also need to be considered, for example members of a fitness center dropping free weights onto the floor/ceiling of the conference room below; or an exhaust chute from a restaurant rigidly attached to the common wall of the apartments above.

A variety of options are available to help address these various acoustical impacts: from sensible commercial tenant location (unlike the yoga studio next to a bar described here) and managing the noise expectations of all of the tenants, to using more substantial floor-ceiling, exterior wall and window constructions.

A successful mixed-used building doesn’t simply require proper planning for acoustical isolation between all tenants.  It also requires that all of the tenants be prepared to be good neighbors.  Remember, just because you live upstairs from your favorite restaurant doesn’t mean that you want to hear the kitchen all night long!