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Acoustics Matters: Designing in Harmony with Acoustics

Controlling costs, demanding faster work, compressing schedules, “value engineering” at every available avenue—these are just a few of the pitfalls of an owner’s uncompromising vision for a project. Unfortunately, this will often lead to acoustics getting overlooked or devalued in the design of a building, often in favor of visual aesthetics and other traditional design imperatives.

When this happens, compromises must be made in order to incorporate acoustics within the constraints of a project to achieve its aesthetic goals. This may lead to beautiful buildings, but without appropriate sound absorption or isolation, excessive noise and privacy issues will become a problem. In an office, this impacts worker productivity and satisfaction. In hospitals or classrooms, it could mean compromised patient care or diminished teaching and learning effectiveness.

Despite their focus on timelines and costs, an owner’s ultimate measure of success is occupant satisfaction. If noise complaints lead to retrofitting a space with an acoustical solution, not only will there be significant, non-budgeted costs but there is also the possibility of losing occupants as a direct result of these complaints.

The headache of dealing with these issues can be avoided when thinking goes beyond minimum code requirements. Once this is accomplished, the focus of the project can be set on the role that acoustics can play as a key design imperative, inextricably linked to the comfort and well-being of a building’s occupants.

When acoustics are treated as such, it allows a project to:

Embed human comfort into every project

Establishing acoustic performance criteria early in design enables a project the opportunity to select and specify appropriate acoustical products and systems that balance materials preferences and budget demands. This means that aesthetics and acoustics can be delivered in a way that can meet an owner’s requirements while also enhancing human experience and comfort for the occupants.

Enhance the invisible dimensions of design

Although materials like metal, wood, or concrete are visually striking when used in exposed-structure or open-plenum designs, they absorb sound quite poorly. Address this invisible aspect of design with sound-absorptive materials that marry visual beauty with optimized sound performance. This provides the opportunity to carry out the ultimate vision for the space while delivering building performance that supports and satisfies its occupants.

Optimize acoustics for integrated building systems

Optimizing acoustics across ceiling, wall, and floor systems will typically require engagement with multiple suppliers, each with varying levels of expertise, responsiveness, and product performance. Working with a qualified acoustician and a single manufacturer to design and deliver acoustically effective systems that meet code in real-world environments is the best route towards a successful project. The amount of time and resources spent on administrative tasks will be reduced and potential non-compliance costs can be avoided, allowing increased focus on occupant experience and satisfaction.

The USG Solution

Acoustics should matter to your materials manufacturer. When you partner with USG, acoustical performance considerations will be incorporated earlier in the design process as a critical design decision rather than an afterthought. Acoustic quality will be accounted for as well as sustainability, form, style, materiality, color, and integration of lighting, mechanical, and plumbing. Any project can experience newfound flexibility to balance and allocate budget requirements with optimal aesthetic and performance outcomes.

By incorporating USG’s extensive portfolio of sound-absorbing products and systems designed to enhance acoustic comfort and privacy for use in a variety of environments, critical acoustic design elements will remain intact throughout the design process.

Additional information on USG’s acoustic offerings can be found here.


* An edited version of this article was originally published on