LEEDing WELL: Secure Sustainability Certification with Acoustics in Mind

Designing for sustainability and wellness in the built environment has become increasingly popular, which has given rise to multiple certification programs. While many projects have remained focused on achieving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, there are several other sustainability certifications that have grown in popularity. Two examples being Zero Carbon Building Standard and Built Green.

Over the years, the scope of sustainability has begun to shift to include occupant health and well-being, which formed the way for new sustainability certification programs, such as the WELL Building Certification program. The WELL program is unique in that it exclusively focuses on designing for wellness. Acoustics has been adapted as a primary concept with a range of credits available, making acoustics an important consideration in achieving any level of certification (bronze to platinum status).


Acoustical Considerations to Secure Sustainability Certification

While each certification program has their own requirements, earning credits for acoustic items often requires consideration of one or more of the following elements:

  • Sound Isolation: Select the appropriate wall, floor and ceiling assemblies to limit the transmission of sound between spaces, based on predetermined requirements outlined in the certification programs.


  • Reverberation Time: Incorporate the right room finishes and sound reducing surfaces to control reverberation time in space. There are several great product options for these acoustic finishes to be seamlessly integrated into the design to maintain the desired aesthetic while also achieving the required performance.


  • Background Sound Level: Incorporate the appropriate noise controls into the mechanical design and limit exterior noise sources to achieve predetermined background sound levels based on the room type and function.


  • Floor Finishes: Select the appropriate floor finishes to control impact noise such as footfall, furniture sliding and high impact activities in fitness areas.


Important Tips to Control Costs while Achieving Acoustic Credits

Costly material and construction upgrades are not necessary to achieve a superior acoustic environment. Here are several very effective strategies to help achieve an exceptional acoustic environment, while keeping costs down:

  • Plan Early to Save Later: One of the most effective ways of maximizing achievable credits for sound is the strategic planning of building layout during the early phases of design. This includes avoiding sensitive adjacencies, strategic layout of the mechanical system and taking advantage of building elements and features necessary for other requirements. Earlier considerations for the acoustic design in a project promotes significant cost savings later in the design process.


  • Pay Attention to Details: While many of the acoustic requirements have considerations during design, there are also many credits available through post-construction verification testing. As the acoustic performance throughout the project can be greatly impacted by the construction execution, it is important that acoustic details are reviewed during to optimize the performance. Consider incorporating contract administration into the budget so your consultant can review all plans, shop drawings, and conduct regular site inspections to ensure you get the most out of each component of the design.


  • Use Effective Sound Masking: When used appropriately, sound masking can be an effective tool to control the background sound environment in open workspace and circulation space. This helps to limit distractions and promote a comfortable work environment. Several sustainability certification programs, including the WELL, have available credits for effective use of sound masking. In other certification programs, including LEED, it can be used to relax sound isolation requirements, saving money on construction upgrades.


Why Acquire Sustainability Certification

Achieving sustainability and wellness certifications is more than just compliance. These accreditations add value to real estate investments, reduce operation costs, enhance well-being, demonstrate corporate social responsibility and can help attract a wide range of tenants.

When pursing sustainability certification, Aercoustics works closely with the design team and sustainability consultants to evaluate opportunities to achieve acoustic related credits within the current design, while also identifying alternative approaches within the project budget to expand the range of credits available. Schedule a call with an acoustic professional to find out how your project can make the leap to achieving certification through effective acoustic design.