HVAC Design: Impact on Productivity and Learning
The acoustical environment of the space in both schools and office buildings is often given too little attention during the design phase. More often it’s the functionality or aesthetics that garners the most attention.
When the acoustical environment is overlooked, productivity can be affected. But taking acoustics into account enables workers to be more productive and it can help students increase their comprehension.
Background noise in a classroom or office space is not only distracting, it can also affect how well you can hear a conversation or an instructor. As an article in Today’s Facility Manager points out, replacing systems and designing buildings with better acoustics can enhance the overall productivity of students and workers. Easy, clear verbal communication requires low noise and little reverberation.
- Locate noisy mechanical equipment away from office spaces and classrooms, whenever possible.
- Build noise buffer areas into the design to isolate work spaces from noisy areas. Noise buffers can include storage areas and printing rooms.
- Locate mechanical and electrical rooms, restrooms and other louder areas near roadways or other outside noisy areas to buffer and absorb even more sound.
- Design ductwork to encourage laminar flow as opposed to turbulent flow. In laminar flow the air travels smoothly, while turbulent flow causes the air to undergo irregular fluctuations, requiring noisier, larger fans to deal with the airflow.
- Duct air returns, instead of using air return louvers, which pass air from one room through to another and can carry conversations between rooms.
- Select HVAC equipment that specifies it’s quiet or employs some type of noise reduction technology.
To thoroughly design an HVAC system, taking acoustics into account, you should use established guidelines and the help of a professional. In the case of classrooms, The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) offers a publication to help you with the design titled “ANSI/ASA S12.60 American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools.”
The publication addresses acoustics and design guidelines for new classrooms, and the standards are also applicable to renovations of existing spaces. The University of California Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design offers resources on the research of indoor environmental quality, with topics related to acoustics and productivity.
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