There is a lot to consider in this underrated yet important element of building design. A combination of thoughtful design and effective insulation is needed to control noise levels in all buildings, including hotels and hospitality.

Acoustic performance is an important yet sometimes underrated element of building design. Acoustics shouldn’t just be considered in building types like concert halls and theatres, but also hotels, bars and restaurants. However, while the design for concert halls and theatres may focus on producing the perfect sound quality, designing hotels and restaurants often calls for sound to be minimised as much as possible.

Minimising sound in these building types requires a combination of thoughtful design and effective insulation. In hotels for example, there is the potential for many noise sources. Some of these include noise from guests in the halls or in adjacent rooms, noise from plumbing, HVAC and elevators, noise from function rooms and exterior noise from vehicles. There are a few key design elements which can reduce these noise sources:

  • Using resilient channel in walls to improve sound isolation. If there are items such as headboards and artwork mounted against the walls however, this will be less effective, requiring other measures such as increased mass, increased air space and double or staggered stud walls.
  • Sealing all air gaps and wall perimeters with an acoustic sealant.
  • Avoiding the placement of back-to-back outlets in party walls. If unavoidable, putty pads should be installed at the back of the outlets.
  • Isolating all elevator infrastructure from the building structure.
  • Using double-glazed windows to block out exterior noise.
  • Planning spaces effectively (eg. No guest rooms under function rooms).

While noise in bars and restaurants is somewhat more acceptable and even expected, that does not mean acoustics should go unconsidered. Noise should be minimised where possible to adhere to Work Health and Safety regulations for staff and patrons, and to ensure patrons’ comfort. Noise reduction should be considered in the following areas:

Kitchens: While it is a common trend today for kitchens to be open and visible to the patrons, and sometimes even incorporated into the dining area, this means the clanging of dishes and shouted orders of the staff can be audible. The best way to reduce this is of course to design an enclosed kitchen that is off to the side of the venue. However, as sound can transmit through walls, this still leaves some patrons exposed to the sounds of the kitchen. To prevent this, appropriate sound insulation materials are required.

Building systems: HVAC and plumbing equipment can noisy when improperly installed or installed in the wrong location. While some restaurant owners may choose to override this with music, this sometimes turns into a vicious cycle where music is being used to drown out building noises and patrons must increasingly raise their voices to be heard over the music and over other loud patrons. This can be avoided by choosing quieter equipment in the first place and making sure it is configured properly. The location of noisier equipment should also be considered in relation to the patrons.

Exterior noise: For restaurants located along major roads or in urban areas, noises from traffic, aircrafts, other venues and people on the streets can be an issue. While some venues may prefer to be open to the street, this needs to be considered in relation to the location. Most venues are better served with enclosed walls and doors, and good quality windows that will help maintain both temperature and quiet. Appropriate sound insulation is also recommended in this case, particularly for more high-end restaurants where patrons expect a more quiet, formal environment where they can enjoy the ambiance and easily hold a conversation.

The full version of this story will be available in the March / April  issue of INFOLINK | BPN