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Ignoring the Obvious

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Acoustics in Healthcare and Education

Buildotech along with Knauf AMF India, the German manufacturers of high performance ceilings, organized a panel discussion on the topic of “Acoustics in Healthcare and Education” in Chennai on July 17.

Yet another informative and highly invigorating evening, organized by Buildotech & Knauf AMF witnessed the crowd of select professionals of Chennai animatedly discussing the role of acoustics in modern buildings. A general consensus was that acoustics is not given due importance by the clients or the architects alike, especially in facilities like hospitals and educational institutes.

Ar. C. S. Raghuram, Director-C R Narayana Rao LLP, one of the panelists, presented the case studies of his projects ranging from institutes of higher studies to hospital and specialized healthcare project. According to him, what sets educational and hospital buildings apart from other projects like offices and malls is the widely different spaces from waiting areas to operation theatres in hospitals and classrooms to seminar halls in colleges. Moreover, with these complexes comprising naturally ventilated areas, incorporating acoustics becomes a challenge.

“It was only few years ago, that artificial lighting and its impact on the building interiors and occupants productivity was realized. Today, lighting design is a major consideration in any project and lighting consultants are part of most building designs. Architectural acoustics too is getting there, the difference is that lighting can be seen but acoustics is felt and therefore it would need more effort on part of all he stakeholders from architects, designers, consultants as well as vendors and system integrators to create awareness among the building owners and developers.”

– Teddy D’Souza

“Educational and healthcare institutes present similar complexities as both kinds of buildings need to accommodate large volumes of people and consist of different types of areas from public to collaborative spaces, circulation area, seminar halls, operation theatre and lobby & waiting rooms etc. Also, these projects are complicated in terms of integration of engineering and services. Furthermore, all surfaces including ceilings, floors and their combinations need to be considered. While the materials should be soft & absorptive to be acoustically correct, they should also be easy to clean and maintain which requires hardy surface. Thus, architects choice of materials should stand the test of time while they perform by themselves with little maintenance.”

The other panelist Robert Maria, Principal Acoustician – 3db Audio Visual, emphasized the need of involving an acoustic consultant at the design stage itself. He explained that making provisions in the beginning for electro acoustic equipment, cabling etc. as well as the materials and designs takes much less time and cost to the project. He said, “There is a gradual awareness and some architects are now engaging acoustic consultants for not only specialized projects like auditoriums or theatres but also buildings like offices and institutes. For instance, in a project in Chennai, assisted learning devices are being introduced for the first time and this has happened at the architect’s level as they involved us right at the beginning. Similarly in school project in Chennai, we are consulting for the music room design that shares walls with other class rooms. The aim is to avoid airborne sound and create sufficient acoustics so that adjacent teaching rooms are not disturbed. But mostly, consultants are called in to improve the already designed spaces which then require more cost and time to solve acoustic problem.

Teddy D’Souza, Director Operations – Knauf AMF India Pvt. Ltd., comparing the acoustic scenario with that of lighting segment commented, “It was only few years ago, that artificial lighting and its impact on the building interiors and occupants productivity was realized. Today, lighting design is a major consideration in any project and lighting consultants are part of most building designs. Architectural acoustics too is getting there, the difference is that lighting can be seen but acoustics is felt and therefore it would need more effort on part of all he stakeholders from architects, designers, consultants as well as vendors and system integrators to create awareness among the building owners and developers.”

“Most architects have a disposition towards creating high volume spaces and I am guilty of that too. Our first instinct in seeing a site is, ‘what is the maximum ceiling height I can get’, which maybe great design wise but not acoustically. This is the conflict of design and engineering where the architect should set his ego aside.”

– Raghuram

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