Acoustics studies the sound and how it behaves in various environments. Sound effects such as absorption, reflection, refraction or interference are also studied by acoustics. The broad acceptance of the term ‘acoustics’ refers to all the aspects of sound. Until not long ago, the notions ‘acoustics’ and ‘sound’ referred to waves and elastic vibrations that humans could hear. However, in the twentieth century, the development of technology and science has led to the broadening of the field of acoustics, in that it now comprises aspects not directly related to the hearing process, such as intensities and frequencies which are above or below the audible limits of humans.
When speaking of sounds, most people think of the vibrations in any type of medium, which can cause the sensation of hearing. Any unwanted sound is perceived as a noise. The term is definitely subjective, since what is music for one person can very well be noise for another. When such unwanted sounds are excessive, their effects can be destructive, which is now known by the name of noise pollution. Adverse noise effects fall into three categories, physiological, psychological and communicational. Unfortunately, there aren’t any known and adopted remedies for the last two categories. Noise pollution is a complex problem and surveys show a disturbing fact, that noise levels are continually rising in cities.
As far as the sounds inside buildings go, we can speak about two main ways of transmission. Firstly, the sound emanated from either human activity or mechanical noise inside the building travels airborne through walls, ceiling or floor. Sounds from human activity include loud voice or amplified systems. Mechanical noise refers to the sounds produced by elevators, generators, air conditioning systems and so on. Secondly, interior sound can be transmitted not through air, but through the building itself. The former is easier to abate than the latter through wall or ceiling assemblies which meet certain established performance standards.
Statistics say that millions of employees are exposed to noise in the office, and therefore are subjected to all the risks that come along. Work-related stress and accidents which occur because of masked warning signals are just two of them, not to mention the lack of productivity and efficiency on the part of the office workers. Noise represents a safety issue, butt also a productivity issue for the employees. The office should be a quiet place to work and an office with good acoustics will provide the employees with the ability to concentrate and not be distracted. Reducing the intensity of sounds is called soundproofing. Soundproofing can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The distance between the source and the receiver could be increased, sound wave energy could be blocked or absorbed by means of noise barriers, sound baffles could be used as damping structures, or antinoise generators could be activated. With soundproofing, noise can be affected in two ways: it can be either reduced or absorbed. Noise reduction implies blocking the sound wave passage with intervening objects. The absorption of noise refers to echoes and reverberation being suppressed.