Architectural Acoustics: Principals and Practice – A Review

by Dick Campbell

Dick Campbell reviews this book – Architectural Acoustics: Principals and Practice (Second Edition)

Architectural Acoustics: Principals and Practice (Second Edition)
William J. Cavanaugh, Gregory C. Tocci and Joseph A. Wilkes, Editors.
Dedicated to Leo L. Beranek       Wiley–October 2009: ISBN 978-0-470-19052-4

This book is comfort food for the inquisitive mind as well as the practicing professional. Even someone with a modicum of knowledge but with curious listening experiences can find a pertinent chapter, learn a few simple facts, read an essay with occasional calculations, or see a reality check with a case study.At three pounds and 362 pages in an 8in by 10in format, this is definitely a “lap book”.  One is immediately attracted to the cover showing a breathtaking photo of the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. The dedicatee had a hand in this design and musicians give it rave reviews.

The chapters flow smoothly with explanations followed by case studies, a well-tested didactic. For example, “…got a heavy walker in spike heels in the apartment above?” The case study on page 124 is the story of a hapless builder who did not listen so ended up tearing out ‘his’ way and replacing it with the acoustician’s way, thereby meeting the building code requirement. Some readers will be surprised that there is a device called a “tapping” machine that simulates that spike-heeled thumper walking around.

There are 31 such case studies in the book encompassing opera houses, concert halls, arenas, worship spaces spaces. This reviewer was directly involved in two of the examples as a computer modeler, naturally wishing that more space was given to this subject. Computer modeling is a wonderful tool, particularly when auralization is used to listen to a building before it is built.

One hall this reviewer knows well is Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. The air handling equipment is astonishingly quiet and the reason so is explained in the case study on page 121. Nowadays, an acoustical consultant would encourage nothing less than mounting a cooling tower on a separate concrete pad, outside, away from the building. But a historic building jammed in the center of an old New England city simply can’t expand in any direction except up.

Taken together, chapters two and three offer a terrific reference to materials and methods used in building noise and vibration control. The contributors are Greg Tocci (one of the editors) with Rein Pirn and Jeff Fullerton.

What’s new? It’s Green! Chapter seven: Sustainable Design and Acoustics by Ethan Salter, including three case studies. It’s a quick trip through the world of green building materials that might be used for acoustical treatments in offices, classrooms and living spaces. An interesting table shows a few conflicts between good acoustical design and good green design.

The book has been updated throughout. It’s a wonderful reference for professionals. It’s packed with useful information, has expanded illustrations, a glossary and a self-study guide. Three cheers for the editors and contributors.