Acoustic ambitions for a better built environment – part 6.


Beyond the building.

Throughout this six-part acoustic consideration, we’ve posed building-specific questions. So what about the bigger picture?

No building can be considered in isolation. Rather, every building exists as part of a wider ecosystem.

Even within the boundaries of the building itself, there exists the complex ecosystem comprising the interaction between people and building. These two components cannot be considered in isolation; the performance of a building impacts on the performance of people, just as the behaviour of people impacts on the performance of the building.

This bidirectional interaction between building and people has effectively been recognised in the previous discussion about the need to manage the tensions between delivering human-centric and planet-conscious outcomes.

However, when determining what goes to deliver a truly high-performing building, consideration needs to extend far beyond the physical boundaries of the building itself, because those physical boundaries are permeable.

First, of course, people move in and out of buildings. In doing so they interact with the spaces between buildings. It is vital that the environments in these spaces encourage walking, cycling and socialising and create meaningful dialogue between individual buildings and the wider built environment. The curation of spaces between buildings in this manner is known to be crucial in creating healthy, vibrant spaces that promote wellbeing and broader social benefits. Beyond these spaces, people also interact with the transportation networks that open up access to the built environment. Acoustics has its own part to play in this general arena. Previously mentioned advances in soundscape research are increasing the understanding of what characteristics go to create ‘good’ sound environments.

Sound neighbours
This understanding will increasingly inform how soundscapes should be proactively designed and managed. However, that is looking more towards the future. In the immediate term, acousticians have long played a vital role in managing the transmission of noise across a building’s boundaries. This includes both the control of external noise ingress into the building and also the control of noise radiation from the building to prevent unacceptable impacts on the neighbouring environment and other buildings.

Second, high-performance building design needs to properly account for the movement of resource and materials across buildings’ boundaries. This includes incoming resource in the form of electricity, gas, water and other materials and outgoing items include ‘products’ and waste. In this context the word ‘product’ is used to define the primary intended output function of the building, be this a physical product in the traditional sense of the word, or educated pupils from an academic establishment, or healthy patients from a healthcare establishment, or whatever. At the same time, the rise of NZC and ESG strategies are increasingly demanding evidence of carbon, social and environmental impacts along the complete supply chain.

Ultimately, the delivery of a truly high-performing building cannot realistically ignore these multiple connections with the wider world.

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