An overview of room acoustics requirements in North American, nonresidential, building standards



In the United States and elsewhere in North America, acoustics requirements for nonresidential buildings in Federal acts, codes, official standards and unofficial guidelines and rating systems tend to be voluntary, grass-roots and bottom-up instead of being mandatory, top-down or governmentally mandated. This relates to the governmental viewpoint that noise is merely a nuisance, not a health risk as viewed in other parts of the world.   Existing requirements associated with noise control – whether they are related to environmental/community noise, transmission of transportation noise through the building envelope or occupant noise through the interior construction assemblies or minimizing noise from building services – are more prevalent in these standards. Requirements for good room acoustics related to sound absorption, speech intelligibility and distraction-free and comfortable interiors that promote human health and well-being are appearing in more standards and being updated to have more stringent values.  Much improvement is still needed in older standards that do not have regular revision cycles and open, public, review periods.  An overview of the types of room acoustics metrics used, their evolving values, advantages/disadvantages and the research behind them will be provided. Recommendations for future advancements will be offered.