Jose Franco elaborates on the acoustics industry in the region.
Occupant comfort, especially in a green-building perspective, does not only call for good cooling, heating and lighting systems; appropriate acoustic levels are of utmost importance, too. Sound considerations must, therefore, be a part of the design process of, say, classrooms and auditoriums, in order not to impinge on the learning process of students. Other buildings, especially offices, also need to incorporate acoustic levels in their design for a better IEQ, or indoor environmental quality.
“Modern office design requires flexibility to ensure the correct balance of acoustic absorption and attenuation,” says Malcolm Stamper, Marketing Manager of SAS International. “This will also reduce background noise and increase occupants’ concentration whilst enabling conversation.”
Trane, a business of Ingersoll Rand, a global major in creating and sustaining safe, comfortable and energy-efficient environments, understands the challenges in designing classrooms, saying that the HVAC system is often the predominant source of noise in a classroom or other indoor spaces.
It says, “Accurate sound data, acoustical analyses, detailed specifications, appropriate materials and careful construction can help to assure that the classroom environment adequately limits background noise and reverberation.”
The American National Standards Institute and the Acoustical Society of America have developed standards for classrooms and other learning spaces to address acoustical performance criteria and design requirements for schools.
“Good classroom acoustics can be achieved if they’re considered at the start of a design project, and with early collaboration amongst school planners, architects, contractors and suppliers,” Trane says in a note provided to Climate Control Middle East.
There are a number of products that can meet good acoustic levels, amongst them the SAS System 130 metal ceiling solution, which provides tenants with high levels of room-to-room acoustic privacy of up to 45 decibels (dB). According to the company, the metal ceilings from SAS have a 25-year life expectancy and are recyclable.
“We offer a range of design-led products that enable acoustics to work with the design and function of the building to provide improved levels of occupant comfort,” Stamper stresses. “We find that clients will go for quality solutions and understand lifecycle cost benefits.”
On the scale of decibel (the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound), the smallest audible sound is 0dB and a sound 10 times more powerful than that is 10db whilst sounds that are 100 times and 1,000 times more powerful than near silence are 20dB and 30dB, respectively.
Clients can also count on SAS acoustic solutions going towards LEED environmental credits or The Estidama Pearl Rating System (PRS) at the end of their lifecycle. LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognised green building certification system whilst the PRS is the Arab world’s first sustainability rating system for communities, buildings and villas.
Besides being a global designer and manufacturer of metal ceilings, SAS International has for the past four decades also diversified its business into producing partitioning systems and doors, energy-efficient cooling and heating room-comfort solutions and internal architectural metalwork finishes, such as bulkheads, column casings and spandrel panels.
Just recently, the company opened a dedicated office and warehouse at the Dubai Investment Park 2, owing to increasing demand for high-quality HVAC solutions, including acoustics, across the six Arab countries belonging to the GCC, or the Gulf Co-operation Council. The new office serves as a hub for SAS project activities in the Middle East, North Africa and India. The company has a two-year-old office in Abu Dhabi, and its manufacturing facilities in the UK are ISO-accredited and ranked amongst the most modern and well-equipped in the world.
“As a multinational company we work with many different industry sectors in many different territories, and this broadens our customer base,” Stamper says. “We offer local support in the GCC through our regional offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. [And] as different sectors require different levels of activity, our services are tailored according to project demands.”
The company works, for instance, with contractors and developers across the GCC, advising them on how to meet specific acoustic demands for their projects. This means that different sectors continue to require acoustic properties to be addressed. And acoustic products can be found in a number of different sectors across the GCC, from offices to education facilities and healthcare environments. Stamper remarks, “There is a demand for bespoke solutions within the GCC.”
Having been in the Middle East for over 30 years, SAS International has supplied a number of prestigious projects in the region, including for the new headquarters of Aldar Properties in Abu Dhabi, the main building at the Science & Technology Park in Doha and the H3SIXTY Business Centre in Bahrain. In these projects, SAS International had to consider acoustic flexibility for future tenants, to suit individual space-planning requirements.
The Aldar headquarters had required the SAS International’s System 150 metal suspended ceiling for its interior fit-out. This has made a significant contribution to acoustic comfort within the office areas, Stamper says, taking into consideration both open plan acoustic absorption and room-to-room privacy. The metal ceiling tiles feature a custom-made perforated pattern, with wide plain borders of 100mm specified for all floors throughout the 23-storey building.
“All … [our] products are flexible, and we have been involved with both new build and refurb/retrofit projects worldwide, to enable acoustics to be handled effectively to future-proof the system,” Stamper says.
He adds that products of SAS International undergo testing for local and international standards. “Where there is a local standard, we ensure that we test our products according to that standard,” he stresses. “AS with many different international standards, once a product is tested this should be recognised across regions. It saves on shipment of the product and, in turn, saves on carbon[-dioxide] emissions.”
Suspended ceilings, for instance, are tested for two acoustic properties, namely sound absorption and sound attenuation. The former minimises the reflection of sound energy back into a space, thus it refers to the measure of the ability of a surface to absorb sound, whilst the latter is the reduction in sound between two spaces sharing one dividing element.
Stamper mentions his company’s metal chilled ceiling solutions, which deliver appropriate cooling with less energy use. These products “radiate cooling downwards, providing quiet, draft-free comfort cooling to occupants as the HVAC services integrate with these ceiling products”, he explains. Having no moving parts, these systems are quieter and require little maintenance.
“In addition, metal chilled ceilings can be fitted with acoustic pads, providing cooling and acoustic performance for enhanced occupant comfort,” Stamper says. And the fact that building zones can be controlled individually allows unoccupied areas to be isolated and shut down, thereby saving more energy.
All this, Stamper says, shows that a correct installation of acoustic systems is as vital as having the right products.