As our cities grow, an unseen menace grows as well: noise pollution and exposure. Prolonged exposure to elevated noise levels has been linked to other health problems such as heart disease and mental illness. Acoustics can no longer be second-best: they need to be a priority when designing buildings.
In the November 2019 issue of USGlass Magazine, author Ellen Rogers addressed this topic head-on in her article “Are You Listening?” She interviewed leading industry experts on acoustic comfort, including St. Cloud Window president and CEO Casey Mahon.
Below are the key takeaways from the article – you can read the full story on USGlass Magazine’s website.
Better Acoustics Means Better Quality of Life
One of the biggest factors for pushing acoustics at the design level is an improved quality of life.
“We live in a noisy world where people are frazzled with the pace of life and they want to be somewhere they can find some refuge,” Casey told USGlass Magazine. “[Acoustics] is the last green frontier for what makes us live and work better.”
This is backed up by science – According to the Environmental Protection Agency, noise below an average of 70 decibels over 24 hours is “safe” and won’t cause hearing loss. Just in Midtown Manhattan, noise levels regularly reach 95 decibels. This is true for many other cities. People don’t just want a refuge from noise – they need an escape for their own health.
Why Acoustics Must Be Considered by Architects
It’s not enough to design a building and plan to add acoustic windows later.
“We’re in Minnesota, and our buildings have to have thick walls (to protect us from the elements) and then we cut holes in them so we can see out. That’s the weak link,” Casey explained to USGlassMagazine. “You can develop attenuation in the ways you construct walls; so, too, you must get the window to perform as well as the wall because interior noise level is only as good as the weakest link.”
How can architects consider acoustic comfort when designing? As well as selecting acoustic walls, wall material selection is key. Acoustic wall and ceiling panels can reduce sound reflections, noise-proofing sealant can help pug up gaps and selecting acoustic glass.
How to Measure Sound
It’s not enough to just rely on noise ratings when selecting glass, as Casey explains:
“Most glass manufacturers are very proactive in testing the sound attenuation of their products, but it’s important to remember that the data published is purely the performance of that glass,” he says. “I think the biggest mistake specifiers make is that they rely on just the performance value of the glass to determine whether the fenestration works for their needs. But unless the entire specimen is tested you can’t make informed decisions on whether it meets your needs.”
For architects, this means thorough on-site testing. STC and OITC measurements can be used when selecting glass, but the only way to ensure acoustic comfort is to test after windows are installed.
Reduce Noise with Acoustic Aluminum Windows
At St. Cloud Window, we have made high-performance acoustic windows and doors a cornerstone of our product catalogue. We have been designing and fabricating superior-performing acoustic windows for more than 25 years. From that experience, we are able to produce products with STC ratings as high as 60 – approximately equivalent of 10” of solid concrete. More importantly, all of our products are laboratory-tested for certified acoustic performance so you can be prepared for any condition, function or application.
So when your design calls for specific acoustic attenuation — be it hospitality, education, medical, residential or other — our experts can help you specify and detail the design components necessary to meet your most demanding STC/OITC performance requirements.
At St. Cloud Window we know every project begins with a challenge or an idea of what a building might be. We bring that vision to life with our distinctive design aesthetics, precision performance, and design-to-delivery support. Learn more about how our products can deliver on your design objectives and site requirements here. Then, check out our full line of historic replica and acoustic window products, and get in touch for more details about any of our high-performing commercial window products.