Although building acoustics and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) has been a topic of study over the past several decades, recent advancements in the field of sustainable building design have prompted new research questions in this field. The long-term goal of this project, therefore, is to measure and analyze the effects of sustainable, “green” building systems on acoustics and overall IEQ through the use of several testing techniques. Buildings with both traditional and sustainable design elements will be studied over the course of this project to form a more accurate description of the acoustical impacts of both types of systems. This summer, the first building assessment was completed with the help of funding from the Albert P. Weisman Foundation. Despite myriad setbacks that pushed the completion date of this stage of the project from February to August, valuable data was collected in an open-plan office building in downtown Chicago.
- Acoustic data was measured using a Norsonic 121 sound analyzer, with the associated Type-1 microphones. This device was used to measure and track the background noise levels in the space by calculating the A-weighted, equivalent continuous noise level (Leq, A). The average background noise level within the space was 51dBA.
- Thermal and Lighting data was collected using two HOBO U12-012 devices that log temperature, humidity, and light levels over time. These devices were left in varying locations within the office to record data one full business day at a time. Using this method of moving the devices once per business day, an entire week was monitored and recorded. The overall average temperature within the space was 76.9°F, with a relative humidity of 43% during regular work hours (6am-7pm). Light levels in the space varied depending on location due to the heavy use of day lighting, but statistically remained within 80-200lux the majority of the time.
- Occupant Perception data was collected by means of a web-based survey. This was used to compare the quantitative, measured results with a subjective assessment by the people who occupy the space day in and day out. Overall, occupants were quite pleased with the lighting and acoustic conditions. However, thermal comfort and over-crowding were both noted as consistent complaints by virtually everyone that took part in the survey.
To address the overall goal of the project, more buildings must now be assessed in an attempt to compare and contrast occupant comfort levels in both traditional and “green” building designs. As a secondary but important goal of the project, results will be presented to building management as they are collected to aid in addressing some of the HVAC and comfort issues uncovered by the study. Responses from both management and employees within the office have been extremely positive, with both sides eager to find creative solutions to problems that have potentially gone unnoticed prior to this study.