In todays noisy, fast paced, multimedia, industrialized world, being silent and quiet can seem out of place, even irrelevant. 

In todays noisy, fast paced, multimedia, industrialized world, being silent and quiet can seem out of place, even irrelevant.

This is a concern because silence and quiet are very important to human wellbeing.

Silence and quiet play an essential role in all religions and spiritual disciplines.  They are also critical to health and the successful management of stress and anxiety as countless studies show and as evidenced in practice in hospitals and health care facilities.

Why then do we put up with such a self-created, noisy world?

Part of the answer is that the noise is simply a byproduct of the economic machine we have created.  Part of the answer too is that many people simply accept noise and are seemingly unaware of how important silence and quiet is for health and wellbeing.

Whatever the reason, much of the human world suffers from a lack of silence and quiet.

Getting people to change is always difficult and perhaps getting them to be more silent and quiet is exceedingly difficult.  Change requires education and modification of habits and routines.  Even though people would benefit from generating and receiving less noise, it is an unknown that they would do anything significant about it.

Nevertheless, architects and designers in the undertaking of their profession can help make a better world by making buildings more silent and quiet.

Silence and quiet can be built into the design of buildings.  This can be done for during construction, and for use of the building over its life.

During construction, some building methods are more silent and quiet than others.  For example, masonry construction to modular dimensions (no cutting) is much quieter than timber framed on-site construction, and electrically powered tools are generally quieter than internal combustion engine powered tools.  Also, making more building components off-site in quality-controlled conditions will significantly reduce noisy on-site work.

More silent and quiet construction is good for construction site neighbors and is good for on-site workers.

Then, during use of the building over its life, designing for silence and quiet will benefit occupants of any building type or use.  More silent and quiet workplaces make happier workers. More silent and quiet health facilities promote better healing. More silent and quiet houses lead to a better lifestyle. And on it goes for all buildings.

There are two basic ways design can make more silent and quiet buildings.

First is the blocking of excessive outside noise getting inside. Then there is the control of internally generated noise.

The blocking of outside noise can be relatively easy for sealed air-conditioned buildings such as office buildings. But for buildings such as houses that are not appropriate for continuous air-conditioning, blocking outside noise is much more difficult.

Solid construction is the obvious way to block outside noise.  Walls need to be preferably cavity masonry or reinforced concrete.  Stud framed walls with lightweight cladding and insulation are usually inadequate.

Windows can be operable acoustic quality but closing them stops ventilation.  Ventilated acoustic windows (double-depth with a breathable sound-baffled space between them) can work but are expensive.

The challenges are significant in blocking excessive outside noise especially in non-continually air-conditioned buildings, but it is worth the effort to do at least something positive about this.

Then there is the control of internally generated noise.  Each building type has its particular circumstances and conditions for internal noise control.  Interestingly, houses – which are in dire need of protection from outside noise – are a building type least in in need of internal noise control.

One of the best examples of building types which have a critical need for internal noise control are restaurants and bars.  In these buildings, noise can be excessive and can come from many different and simultaneous sources.

Restaurant and bar patrons and staff all suffer from this noise if it is uncontrolled by good acoustic building design.  As well as the discomfort of uncontrolled excessive noise, verbal communication is compromised and communication is essential to everyone, almost like breathing is.  If patrons don’t come back or staff resign because of the negative effects of internal noise, business and the economy suffer.

So, it is most beneficial to design for buildings to be more silent and quiet.

A plan can be developed by designers to educate clients about the importance of silence and quiet in buildings and to persuade them to have an acoustic engineer engaged on certain projects to make sure the silence and quiet works properly.

Widespread adoption of silent and quiet architecture will have significant, positive health effects for our society.  This needs to be a more mainstream design topic. Not only will it promote more silent and quiet buildings, it may even push the public to start thinking seriously about their own wellbeing in this regard and start changing their lifestyles to give more silence and quiet to themselves and others.



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