Such a simple concept, but the extent of its implications are only just beginning to be explored. We are pioneering the soundscape approach in many aspects of our work. It’s a very exciting journey; we find so much potential to improve acoustic outcomes and experience for people. The concept is defined in ISO 12913-1, first published in 2014, as:
The soundscape is the acoustic environment as perceived or experienced and/ or understood by a person or people, in context.
That might sound simple. But it is a paradigm shift from traditional acoustic design. The soundscape is a human construct – you can’t measure it with a sound level meter. People are the means to measure and evaluate soundscape. While soundscape studies are still mostly the preserve of academia, we’ve been running with the idea for several years. It’s inspired many of our responses to new situations, new methods, and new solutions.
Back in 2019 we won the ANC’s most prestigious Building Acoustics Award for the Houseboat, Poole. The radical addition of a soundscape approach to the traditional acoustic design process was pivotal in achieving a transformative design.
Jack Harvie-Clark was on the advisory panel to an academic research study, Project DeStress. The acronym is Design and Engineer Soundscapes To enable Restorative Environments for Sustainable Societies. The project developed an environmental simulation tool to demonstrate how outdoor environments could sound if designed differently.
Also in 2019 we co-organised a one day workshop on Soundscape in Practice. This focused on overcoming traditional acoustic challenges to urban planning and development, with the aim of disseminating knowledge from academia to practice.
We have developed a new method for acoustic design of open plan offices. Taking an occupant-centred approach was inspired by the soundscape concept. This new method is written in to and referenced in a forthcoming International Standard ISO 22955 on acoustic quality in open plan offices (Jack Harvie-Clark was a committee member of the drafting panel). This method also won an ANC Innovation Award, and was highly commended in the Soundscape category of the John Connell Awards. We continue to improve our occupant-centred acoustic design methods for open plan offices.
We have become increasingly focussed on designing for in-use conditions, rather than against benchmark criteria for empty buildings. We realised the need for a method to communicate and evaluate the acoustic conditions of buildings in use. We developed the APEAL Method, for which we won another ANC Innovation Award in 2020.
We have contributed to academic papers that will help shape the direction of soundscape research in buildings. Acoustics for Supportive and Healthy Buildings: Emerging Themes on Indoor Soundscape Research was published in the journal Sustainability in 2020. Five questions on the indoor soundscape approach for regenerative buildings was presented by Simone Torresin at Internoise 2020, and you can watch his presentation on that page.
In March 2021, we are organising a virtual Soundwalk – come and learn about the process – can this method help us design for better acoustic outcomes?