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  • Samantha Hathway

How is Sound Represented on Architects’ Drawings?

How a building performs depends on multiple factors, beyond the size, shape and scale of the structure. Empathy to the neighbouring environment, as well as the performance of internal spaces, are of equal importance. It isn’t just about what we see, it’s also about what we hear, and ensuring good quality of sound can help determine the success of a building project. After all, every building is unique – in layout, location and function – so when designing a building, several concepts must be interlinked. By ensuring that all senses are satisfied, the building will be functional and safe for the people who use them and live around them.

So when a building is being designed, and a concept put to paper, is sound a consideration? To understand the answer to the question we’ve posed, it’s important to understand more about the role of an architect, and how they interact with other professionals such as acoustic engineers to bring a unique vision to life.

What does an architect do?

Architects are highly trained professionals who play a key role in the design and construction of buildings. They work across every sector, including private and public development projects. Look around you, unless you’re completely in the wilds then you’ll see a building that an architect has designed. From churches to office blocks, cinemas to nightclubs, airport terminals to college campuses and housing developments to office complexes, an architect will have had a hand in bringing the vision to reality.

In essence, architects produce detailed drawings of a design concept. These designs are captured on paper as line drawings and CAD software is used to assess the feasibility of the design. It’s not only a highly creative profession, but an architect will also need to be a team player as they’ll work with engineers, interior designers, urban planners, site managers and other professionals. They’ll typically not only work on the design phase but are also heavily involved in construction, dealing with contractors and resolving any technical issues that are encountered.

What is architectural drawing?

Architectural drawing is the visual representation of how a building should be laid out and constructed. It’s not just one type of drawing, however. An architect will create a series of schematics, detailing not only the overall appearance but also drilling down into minutiae details, such as precise construction measurements, as well as the location of electrical, plumbing and mechanical components. There are several types of architectural drawings used in building design. These include:

  • Site plans – this is an aerial view of the project. It marks boundaries and access points as well as neighbouring streets and properties.

  • Floor plans – this is the internal layout of a building; each floor will have its own layout schematic.

  • Cross-section drawings – this refers to a cut across the building (vertical, diagonal or horizontal), exposing the internal layout.

  • Concept drawings – these translate a concept or idea into an initial design.

  • Detail drawings – these drill down into the minutiae of a project and bring together all construction, utility and design components.

Do architects’ drawings contain acoustic information?

As we’ve explained above, architectural drawing contains mainly visual information. Human senses, however, rely on several factors. One of the most important determining factors of how successful a building project will be is the sound landscape created. After all, noise pollution is one of the most damaging types of pollution in our urban landscape. It’s known to not only be a major cause of stress, and as such detrimental to health and wellbeing, but it can also lead to long-term health problems such as cardiovascular disease. So it’s important to get this aspect of design and construction right, vital even, and builders must adhere to strict Building Regulation standards when it comes to the generation of unwanted sound.

This information cannot be included on a line drawing, however, architectural drawings can incorporate acoustic parameters such as sound insulation (walls, floors and doors), internal noise level (within rooms) and reverberation (within roomS) and this is where the assistance of a specialist such as an acoustic consultant or acoustic engineer is essential.

How important is the role of an acoustic consultant or engineer?

Regulation of sound in an environment or habitat is vital to the health and wellbeing not only of us humans but also surrounding wildlife. As urban development continues across our landscape, it’s more important than ever that acoustic consultants and engineers are heavily involved in the construction industry. A line drawing may result in an amazing building design, but it will only work if people can exist comfortably within it.

Acoustics and Architecture – The Synergy

When it comes to the success of a building project, architecture and acoustics definitely go hand in hand. The actual sound may not be recorded on line drawings, but by working together during the design and construction phase, each building project can be optimised for sound. For this reason, the roles of architects and sound engineers often overlap.

Every building will have different requirements, depending on their purpose. For example, a hospital or library will have very different acoustic requirements to an entertainment venue such as a cinema or even a nightclub or recording studio. This is achieved by considering the following:

  • Ambient noise – the level of noise within a building, due to external noise intrusion or the building services

  • Reverberation time – this is the time it takes for sound to fade within a space.

  • Acoustic isolation – this is insulating sound and ensures spaces are adequately soundproofed.

  • Room acoustics – this considers whether the sound is diffused, reflected or absorbed within an internal space, depending on its unique requirements.

By engaging the services of an acoustic consultant, you can be sure that where sound requires amplification or damping, the best and most cost-effective measures will be implemented. This is vital to ensure the building is not just fit for purpose, but also that it performs optimally for those who will use it, with a minimal negative impact on the surrounding environment. There are strict Building Regulations in place, as well as British Standards such as BS 4142 and BS 8233, that must be adhered to. An acoustic consultant will use state-of-the-art recording equipment and software to model each space, ensuring these standards are met. Furthermore, their presence on a construction site is essential to ensure the health and wellbeing of site workers. The Control of Noise at Work Act 2005 is in place to protect the hearing, health and wellbeing of construction workers. This sets out upper limits of exposure and mitigating measures that must be undertaken, at exposure levels ranging from 80-87 dB(A).

In Summary

So, as you can see, the role of an architect is multi-faceted, and it’s only by working with an acoustic consultant or engineer that a building can successfully become a reality. While line drawings themselves provide a blueprint for the structure, to understand the auditory landscape, complex analysis and reporting must be provided.

This is where Auricl can help. Our acoustic consultants work with leading developers and construction companies within London and the South East and can guide you through the build process – from inception to completion and noise monitoring beyond. Our team of experts has extensive experience of working with the myriad professionals involved in a site build, including architects, property developers, project managers and contractors. We can see the sound that you can’t hear, translating visible schematics into audible perception.

To find out more, get in touch today. For our London office, dial 020 7859 4530; for our Reading office, it’s 0118 207 7324. Alternatively, you can email us at

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