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Green acoustics

The Green movement is not only about energy efficiency in buildings but also encompasses the internal and external environment of a building. Arif Zaher sheds some light on the role of acoustic engineering in the Middle East.

Green acoustics

The Green movement is not only about energy efficiency in buildings but also encompasses the internal and external environment of a building. Arif Zaher sheds some light on the role of acoustic engineering in the Middle East.Impact of building developmentsWhen we think of global warming, what commonly comes to mind are large fuel guzzling cars and polluting industrial plants, but in fact a large portion of the pollutants can be attributed to the building development process. Residential, commercial buildings and industrial plants consume the majority of resources and energy, and are responsible for the highest proportion of CO2 emissions.

As part of the construction industry we must all be aware of the latest energy efficiency and conservation trends that have been developed.

US Green Building Council and Leed

The concept of the “Green Building” is becoming a trend and a standard.

A large number of projects worldwide have registered for Leed certification. This movement is not only about energy efficiency, it is about the entire internal and external environment of a building. How can an acoustic engineer make a difference?

Leed guidelines

How do Leed principles apply to projects that acoustic engineers may be involved in? The US Green Building Council (USGBC) booklet provides a 10 point guideline for project-by-project interpretation:

1.Boost employee productivity:Ensuring a high level of indoor environmental quality through the correct design of a building façade to reduce external and traffic noise and designing building services noise levels to appropriate standards are just some of the means of increasing productivity.

2.Recover higher first costs – if any:There is a perception that high performance green buildings cost more to build. In many cases this is true; however, systems utilised costing more initially, would pay for the differential in a short period of time.

3.Design for cost effectiveness:Building designers are becoming more aware of the benefits of introducing competent acoustic engineers that reduce excessive product consumption through cost effective and responsible designs.

4. Enhance health and well-being:In many ways, health and well being are tied to employee productivity and contribute to it and promotes less stressful environments.

5.Reduce liability:Research in the design of a productive conducive environment by enhancing the acoustic environment has been shown to substantially reduce absenteeism in workers.

6.Create value for tenants:The cost savings that building owners realise from the design of a satisfying environment creates the greatest value for building tenants.

7.Achieve more predicable results:Green Building design and construction emphasising “best of class” practises that reduce project risk and enhance the final product for the customer are the goals of any design and integration professional, and may be embraced on green-building projects.

8.Take advantage of incentive programmes:There are private foundations worldwide that offer grants for green building projects.

9.Benefit your community:The Leed philosophy is; ‘Better, more efficient and less polluting projects that benefit the communities they are built in.’

10. Increase property value:USGBC explains, “An asset that maintains its value through higher occupancy and easier maintenance is easier to sell and maintains higher market valuation.” Once again there is a win-win situation, with the building owner paying attention to commendable acoustic design aspects and profiting from the implementation.

Our concern for the environment and interest in creating productive and comfortable work and living places, are strong incentives to become involved in the principles behind green-building initiatives.

Arif Zaher is the director of Al Mana & Associates (AMA) and responsible for all aspects of the acoustics and vibration work undertaken by AMA. Prior to this, he was a senior design consultant in a private practice consultancy for acoustic planning and design, working across New Zealand and Australia. Zaher has proven experience in establishing economical acoustic designs for the isolation of large mechanical plant items as encountered in central plant office towers.

The opinions expressed in this column are of the author and not of the publisher.

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