Highlands Sports Complex WELL
With increasing architectural trends toward open office collaboration, use of lightweight materials in construction, exposed slab finishes and mechanical equipment, the acoustical comfort in a space is more likely to become compromised unless treatment is considered. When noise from internal activity or external sources increases the background noise level in a space, occupants become susceptible to distraction, thus reducing productivity and memory retention and increasing stress levels. Specifically, in office environments, employees care about privacy and the ability to collaborate. In one study from the UK, 99% of employees reported that their concentration was impaired by poor acoustical comfort in the workplace. This is shown to be an ever-growing problem worldwide in open office environments. In some instances, it has been shown that occupants are less likely to help others under high noise conditions, which may have an impact on collaboration in the workplace. With the number of noise complaints on the rise, increased awareness of acoustical comfort may assist designers in identifying sources of noise. If a plan is implemented from the start, the level of occupant satisfaction has the potential to strengthen with the level of acoustical comfort.
By design, background noise level (dBA or NC) attributable to HVAC equipment noise, external noise intrusion or a similar source is shown on floor plans that indicate acceptable levels of noise between regularly occupied spaces and across façade elements. Floor plans with color coded descriptions have been submitted to WELL Online.
Also, by design, projected acoustical performance of typical walls that separate regularly occupied spaces throughout the facility are shown on floor plans denoting sound transmission metrics on a partition schedule.
We’ve labeled acoustic zones on floor plans showing Highlands Sports Complex loud zones, such as mechanical equipment, appliances, kitchens, fitness rooms, sports arenas, arcades, and other areas with high levels of noise; quiet zones, such as offices, wellness, rest, study, and privacy areas; and mixed zones, such as learning spaces, collaboration areas, team rooms, and conference and presentation areas.
A space that is negatively shaped by HVAC system and exterior noise intrusion can be described as either too loud or distracting. Both instances are individually problematic: the level of background sound may affect speech communication, audio features and, in extreme conditions, the effectiveness of public address systems. Studies indicate that employees are unable to habituate to noise in office environments over time, and office noise, with or without speech, can create stress and disrupt performance on more complex cognitive tasks [e.g., memory of prose, mental arithmetic.] Background noise also poses a problem from a universal design and accessibility standpoint when the signal-to-noise ratio favors background noise over speech intelligibility, thus making it hard to engage in critical listening for the purposes of learning or performing tasks. In Europe, external noise intrusion from sources like transportation or industry have been linked to occupant annoyance in buildings. In adults, exposure to traffic noise can lead to complications with the cardiovascular system, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, depression and high blood pressure. For children, chronic aircraft noise exposure impairs reading comprehension, mental arithmetic and proofreading. In both industrial and community studies, road traffic noise exposure is related to raised catecholamine secretion levels in urine, indicating an increased stress level in subjects exposed to such noise. Increase in the use of light-weight construction materials has the potential to result in poor sound transmission performance across building façade elements. Designing with background noise level criteria in mind is key to ensuring acoustical comfort across a range of project types. When exposure to noise is reduced, occupants are less susceptible to distraction, overall stress and potential health risk.
In regard to open workspaces and open areas, enclosed offices, and conference rooms, sound parameters for background noise are the lowest levels of noise thresholds and the highest achievement levels for each specialized area. Thresholds to not exceed:
The following background noise threshold level is achieved:
Sound Pressure Level (SPL)
Residential Living & Sleeping Areas (Daytime)
Residential Sleeping Areas (Nighttime)
Average SPL (Leq)
Max SPL (LMax)
The sound that transmits through partitions that lack acoustical performance can be highly distracting for people who may be located in the adjacent room. This is most noticeable across partitions that separate sensitive spaces that require lower background noise levels (e.g., human resources, legal, AV-equipped conference rooms, wellness rooms, bedrooms, classrooms). As lightweight construction and demountable partitions become the norm in typical architectural design, there is still a need for greater acoustical privacy that can only be provided by less visibly transparent building materials with greater mass. There is evidence that suggests if occupants know that their room is not private (i.e., that sound transmits readily from one room to another), they will be less inclined to divulge personal information to a doctor, colleague, family member etc. When an enclosed, private office allows sound to be transmitted easily, the expectation of privacy is stunted unless acoustical treatment is provided. Increasing privacy between spaces, especially sensitive spaces, has the potential to reduce distraction or disturbances that external noise sources may cause for occupants.
Wall constructions for office spaces meet minimum (SSP) the sum of background noise levels and sound insulation across partitions between enclosed offices and conference rooms and vice versa.
In the spaces listed below, the sum of the background noise level (NC or NR) and sound insulation across a partition (NIC or Dw) meets the minimum SPP ratings listed in the table:
Enclosed Quiet Zones
(identified through S01: Sound Mapping, Part 3: Label Acoustic Zones)
In spaces that incorporate hard surface finish materials, reverberation time and reflected sound energy have the potential to build and create uncomfortable environments. For example, a space that is designed for learning, presenting, critical listening or a similar purpose will benefit from having a reverberation time that is conducive to high speech intelligibility and articulation class (i.e., the words or sounds that are intentionally introduced to that space are heard as needed by all occupants). In a classroom, for instance, this requires a reverberation time that is low enough to foster clear speech intelligibility but high enough to allow speech to project to all areas of the classroom. From a universal design and accessibility standpoint, this focus on optimal acoustical design is crucial in designing spaces where all occupants can clearly understand information, sometimes critical information, that is being audibly presented. Over-reverberance and reflected sound energy have the potential to interrupt audio-visual equipment in small spaces, in some instances even making phone calls unintelligible on the receiving and/or source end. There may be instances where enhanced speech intelligibility is not ideal (e.g., office environments, restaurants) where focus or intimacy at a task plane is anticipated. Achieving optimal reverberation times in specific spaces is crucial for designing with acoustical comfort in mind. Designing a space with reverberation time and reflected sound energy in mind can drastically improve the comfort level of occupants in terms of critical listening, speech projection, memory retention and speech privacy.
Testing by a WELL certified performance agent was done as part of pre-performance verification testing and the test methodology as outlined in the Performance Verification Guidebook was unable to produce a sound loud enough to generate a response across all frequencies within the large space.
Because of the room sizes and there not being a way to reliably test the reverberation time we excluded these rooms from the Performance Verification part of S04 testing and only test the one conference room (Conference AB). We have included information on the difficulties of large auditorium testing due to air becoming an absorber at such large volumes. This alternative testing was approved by the international WELL Building Institute. Highlands Sports Complex is a vast building and the first sports complex in the world to attempt to achieve the credential.