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The APEAL method

The APEAL Method – Acoustic Performance EvaluAtion through Listening – ushers in a revolution in the acoustic design process. APEAL enables you to participate in the acoustic design by listening. Do you want your building to sound like this or like that when people are in it? This is a world away from talking acoustic jargon for the empty, unoccupied building – which has hitherto been the conventional extent of acoustic design.

Let us demonstrate how different spaces sound in use, so that you can make an informed decision about the experience that you seek in your development. Here is an example:

Northumbria University Library Reading Room, a mixed use open plan space with a wide range of acoustic environments (Best heard with headphones!)

This video illustrates the soundscape of the Reading Room of Northumbria University City Campus Library. The Reading Room is an open plan space that accommodates a wide range of activities: there are areas for collaborative, individual and deep focus work, all of which have very different acoustic environments. The diversity of acoustic conditions works well for the occupants – this is a popular destination for students to work. We shot this video stationing for a prolonged period of time in each area, so that we could give an accurate impression of what it is like to work and study within this soundscape.

What is the APEAL method?

The APEAL Method is a way of capturing and reproducing the acoustic environment of a building in use, in a way that is aurally accurate. This enables wider experience of the acoustic environment, so that all stakeholders can participate in establishing in-use acoustic performance aspirations for a project. Thus the evaluation of one environment contributes immediately to the design of the next one. This needs no acoustic jargon, complex acoustic descriptors or numbers – simply listening with an understanding of the context is enough experience to form opinions. The APEAL Method enables acoustics to be included in a participatory design process.

APEAL films are aurally accurate – we say they combine point of view video footage with point of audition audio recording. This means that what you hear when you listen through headphones is exactly what the person standing at that point in the building heard. We use a variety of techniques to capture the audio in this way. The simplest is binaural recording, where there is a microphone by each of the film-maker’s ears. The camera is either head-mounted, or held close to the film-maker’s head. In this way, the visual perspective and aural perspective coincide. Although it may be surprising, this is a very unconventional filming technique!

That may sound simple – but we have become so accustomed to the cinematic experience of audio-visual media, that hearing the reals sounds of a place can be very confronting.

For more detail, read our paper presented at the Institute of Acoustics Conference 2020, or listen to our presentation below.

Listen to our first presentation of the APEAL Method at Internoise 2020 eConference in Seoul, South Korea, August 2020.

What are the benefits of the APEAL process?

Using the APEAL process for design enables a client and design team to share a common language for the acoustic design aspirations. This is a paradigm shift from talking about ambient noise levels and reverberation times in empty rooms. APEAL enables a human-centered approach to acoustic design for buildings. It is immediately accessible to people without any technical knowledge of acoustic science and engineering. Here are some more examples.

The Word, South Shields. A multi-award winning building, read more about this project here. (This does not feature binaural sound recording)
A cafeteria, noisy even though only partially occupied.
Another city library, with a different type of acoustic environment
Apex Acoustics Ltd Design Works, William St, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE10 0JP Head office: 0191 620 0750 Midlands: 0115 708 0750

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