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Sounding Off

sounding off

blog of acoustics, noise, vibration & audio-visual systems

The new version of the FGI (Facility Guidelines Institute’s) Guidelines is here! The “FGI Guidelines” is an industry standard document focused on the design and construction of healthcare facilities, covering topics from space planning and room design to equipment, to (you guessed it) acoustics, which was introduced in the 2010 cycle.

2014 FGI Guidelines Book


Acoustics By Design gets requests, every week, to help corporate office environments with their speech privacy. Whether it’s a conference room, single private office, or one with legal privacy concerns (like a doctor’s or lawyer’s office), it’s important to keep certain conversations protected and private. In other words, the type of work performed in a space, and expectations of privacy, can dictate the acoustic shape of the space. Of course, you can plan for your privacy needs in advance, or handle the renovations later when you find that you need some private spaces. Either way, with proper planning, you don’t have to board up the Board Room to have a private conversation.

Boarding up the board room


It’s always a pleasure to hear that someone is enjoying the spaces created by the work that we do at Acoustics By Design. In this case, The University of Michigan’s newly renovated Schembechler Hall. The smiles were evident on the faces of everyone in attendance at the grand re-opening on April 4.

The Big House wall


The Star Wars Episode VII cast was announced this week, and Star Wars Day is this Sunday! May The 4th Be With You! So, what better way to celebrate, than with this post about THX?

Happy Star Wars Day - May The 4th Be With You! (more)

Every year on April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day. From San Francisco to San Juan, Beijing to Brussels, Moscow to Marrakesh, people plant trees, clean up their communities, contact their elected officials, and more, all on behalf of the environment. The goal: 1-Billion Acts of Green. Green programs that honor Earth Day, and our environment go much deeper and wider than a single day of the year.

Earth Day Acoustics and Green Design (more)

Wireless microphones that perform well are the Holy Grail in worship spaces. With Palm Sunday, Passover, Good Friday, and Easter just around the corner, the sound-systems in our churches and synagogues can be the un-sung heroes of the week, or the albatross around the necks of anyone holding or wearing them. We’ve all come out of a worship service remembering when the mics didn’t work, and we couldn’t hear the message. How many wireless mics does your church really need? How can you be sure they will work? How much should you pay for a wireless microphone?

Microphone Holy Grail (more)

Mobile devices have become an ever-present part of our connected culture. With smartphones, tablets, and cell phones expected to outnumber people, in the US, by the end of the year, what can a hospital do to maintain some level of quiet? Allowing cell phone use, while adhering to HIPAA guidelines can also be problematic because it may compromise patient privacy.
no-phones (more)

image of webinar room audio-visual consultantWhen we receive lunch and learn requests, we take into account how much time is involved. Travel to another office, planning lunch, and cleanup are all part of the “1 hour” equation. Can the four or five hours of work and travel fit into the schedule? Will your portable audio-visual equipment be acceptable? Could the experience be better? (more)

Charlie Brown's teacher could of just been been bad classroom acousticsBack when I was in grade school, I loved the animated Charlie Brown shows. I have particular memories of the scenes in class where the kids’ teacher would address them: “Wa Wa Wa, Wa, Wa Wa Wa, Wa.” Thinking about it still makes me smile. What a simple scene that helps visualize the point of my topic today. (more)

image of how to measure STC ratings - acoustical engineerWhen we are testing a noise issue between units in a multi-unit housing complex or between closed office spaces, I often get the question “Can we just turn on some loud music in one room, and listen in the next room?” Good question. Although this can help confirm that there is an issue with inadequate sound isolation, it doesn’t exactly give us enough information to help provide a solution. (more)

We don’t make a practice of tooting our own horns at Acoustics By Design, but for this we will make a small exception. Great news: ABD was just named to the list of Michigan’s Best and Brightest Sustainable Companies. As a professional consulting engineering firm, we sell no physical products, so we cannot tell our clients to “buy our green widget.” Instead, the challenge is showing the value of sustainable design and how it impacts our clients’ bottom line. In the past this has been an uphill battle, but in many recent projects, we are finding a groundswell of positive momentum for going green. Read the full list of sustainable companies here. (more)

image of conference room surround soundOn a recent project we sat down for the kick-off programming meeting, and I started working through my list of questions to help us figure out what types of AV functionality the client needed for the project. At one point the owner’s representative (who was not from the technology team) stated that they really just wanted a good quality system with “microphones, speakers, and surround sound.” This was a corporate boardroom, not a movie theater, so I asked what types of video content they would be viewing in the room. (more)

ABD Pays it Forward

May 17, 2012

One of the great things about being part of the local architecture and engineering industry is giving back to the students in our community who have an interest in the same field. For the last three years I have been a volunteer with The Academy of Design and Construction at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Union […]

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OHSA Requirements for Employee Noise Exposure

May 10, 2012

We frequently get calls to come and assess noise levels in industrial facilities. The concern is usually whether the employee’s exposure to noise is meeting OSHA requirements. So what are standard OSHA requirements for employee noise exposure?

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HIPAA Speech Privacy Acoustics

May 3, 2012

Standing atop my soapbox and surveying the healthcare land as we know it, I can declare at the top of my lungs, “I have a right to be heard… er, NOT HEARD… wait, wait… I have a right that a reasonable effort has been made to ensure that I won’t be heard!” I apologize for […]

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David Byrne of Talking Heads Talks About Acoustics

April 26, 2012

In this TED Conference video, David Byrne, lead singer of Talking Heads, gives us a brief a history of music and how it evolved in relation to architectural acoustics and reverberation. Worth the watch. One issue this video doesn’t address is that architectural acoustics can be designed and optimized in any building. Sure, Carnegie Hall […]

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How Many Lumens Do I Need? Tips for Selecting Projector Brightness

April 12, 2012

We all have seen nice big projector screens that have an image that is just too dim to be clearly seen. To protect against this occurrence, we set a target brightness level during the design process, and we base it on a number of variables. The physical screen size needs to be compared to the […]

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Industrial Noise Mitigation Strategies

March 29, 2012

We were recently called in to help with controlling the noise levels at an engine test facility. I went to the site to take noise measurements in various areas of the facility. The problem was not within the test cells, but from all the external equipment needed to run the cells from air compressors, to […]

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Classroom Audio-Visual Technologies that Work

March 21, 2012

“It depends.” This is probably my most frequent response I give when people ask me a tech-related question. Why? Because the answer to the question will vary depending on circumstances, factors, and requirements. So when someone asks me, “What’s the best AV technology to put into a classroom?” My answer usually is, “It depends.” What […]

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Medicare Funding Linked To Patient Satisfaction Scores

March 15, 2012

How important is acoustics in hospitals? Just ask Medicare. A recent Washington Post article highlights how Medicare reimbursement payments for hospitals will be linked to patient satisfaction scores (such as Press Ganey Patient Satisfaction Surveys). What does this have to do with acoustics? As it turns out, acoustics is the worse scoring section of patient […]

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